Contactless Payment

Contactless is a fast way to pay, for purchases costing £30 and under. Contactless payments are becoming increasingly common on a range of devices including debit and credit cards, wearable devices, and smartphones.

The underlying technology for all of these contactless payment devices is the same. The contactless device contains an antenna so that when it is touched against a contactless terminal, it securely transmits purchase information to and from the terminal.

There are now 76 million contactless payment cards in circulation.  It’s quick and simple. You just touch the card or device onto a reader instead of punching in your PIN or signing.  You can also now pay for journeys on buses and trains. You simply need to touch your card on the yellow reader at the barrier without the need to purchase a paper ticket.

But is it safe?

The payment uses an advanced system of encryption to protect against fraud, with each separate transaction recorded. Unlike if you lose cash, if you are victim of card fraud you will get your money back from your bank.  If you lose your card, or think it may have been stolen, then contact your bank immediately.  The UK Card Association says the rate of fraud for contactless transactions is just 2p for every £100 spent – for Chip & PIN, it’s 6.9p for every £100.

Be mindful that your card can be read up to 20cm away.  If you are concerned, you can buy protective metal wallets and purses that stop a thief’s scanner picking up card details from inside your wallet.  If you have more than one card, to avoid ‘card clash’, make sure you actually touch the card reader with the card you’d like to make the payment from.  Don’t worry if you tap the same card twice, the reader and card are configured so that you will only be charged for one transaction.

When travelling abroad, you can use your contactless card to an equivalent £30 limit, but you may also be charged for making a foreign payment.  This could represent a large proportion of the cost for a low value payment.


Photo by HLungaard / CC