The spread of COVID-19 has changed the way people live and work in recent months, especially when it comes to day-to-day interactions. Contactless payments, for instance, have seen an unprecedented increase in use during the pandemic.
Max Levchin has been promoting the future of this technology well before the world went into lockdown. He cofounded PayPal in 1998, then moved on to cofound Affirm, which allows consumers to set up payment installment plans with over 2,000 merchants, including Walmart, Warby Parker, Verizon Visible, David Yurman, and Peloton. Qualified shoppers can opt into a 3, 6, or 12 month plan, with interest rates ranging between 0-30 percent APR. Loans are made through Affirm’s banking partner Cross River Bank.
As he looks towards the industry’s future, Levchin expects to see an increase in the adoption of contactless payments in the U.S., even beyond the pandemic.
"People are going to start realizing cash is not just a bit dirty, but a potential viral transmitter," he told Fortune. "On balance that's a good thing because [a decline in cash usage] will bring more transactions into the light."
In addition, he believes that Americans will also come out of this experience more conscious of their debt, and start paying more than the monthly minimum balance on their credit cards. Levchin also thinks big banks and some digital-only challengers will see an increase in business once the current crisis passes.
As for Affirm, the company has raised $800 million in equity funding, its last round being a hefty $300 million series F in 2019, led by Thrive Capital. Affirm currently serves more than 4.5 million consumers, and recently opened its fourth office location in Chicago.
Earlier this year it partnered with StubHub, allowing fans to purchase live event tickets and pay for them over time. Last month it revealed that it had even teamed up with Oscar de la Renta, enabling shoppers to spread out the payments of their high-end designer’s clothes, lessening the blow to their wallets.
Last year, the company rolled out a new app allowing prequalified consumers to create a one-time-use virtual card with which they can shop almost anywhere, giving people even more flexibility with contactless payment.