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Last updated: 23/07/2020 | Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Contactless cards

Contactless card payments are becoming more and more popular as cards with the facility are issued as standard and people are getting used to the increased convenience.

But the prevalence of contactless cards raises a few questions, like how safe they are from fraud.

With the level of usage of contactless cards steadily on the rise, we’ll take a look at what they are as well as at some of the main associated benefits and drawbacks.

In This Guide:

How do contactless cards work?

Contactless cards can be recognised by the small radio wave symbol found on the front of the card. You can use them to make payments by simply tapping them on, or holding them a centimetre or two away from, a card machine.

Currently, contactless cards can only be used on payments of £20 and under but in September 2015 this limit will go up to £30.

Contactless cards first properly entered the UK market in 2008 and are now more popular than ever, with most debit and credit cards coming with contactless facilities as standard.

Main benefits of using contactless cards

The main benefit of contactless cards is the sheer convenience – tapping a card on a reader takes a fraction of the time that using a chip and pin system does.

This means that not only is your own payment quicker, but in a busy establishment, whether a shop, café or bar, everything is a lot more streamlined and far more transactions can be completed over a short period of time.

Are contactless cards safe?

The one problem with contactless cards is that as the convenience and ease of payment goes up, so too does the risk of fraud. Without the need to enter a pin code, it is, at least in theory, easy to use someone else’s contactless card to make payments.

However, the low limit on payments of £20 means that, even in the worst case scenario, not a lot can be stolen at once. Additionally, as an extra security measure, if you use you contactless card many times throughout the day, then usually on the fifth try, you’ll need to use chip and pin.

This means that the most that can be fraudulently taken from your account should be around £100, though exactly how many contactless payments can be made before a pin is required will vary depending on the card issuer’s policy.

Another thing to be careful of with your contactless card is card clash. If you’ve got more than one contactless card in your wallet, or even just an oyster card, then make sure that you remove the card you want to use and scan it on its own. Otherwise you risk payments not going through due to multiple cards scanning at once or worse – payments going through twice.

Where can I use my contactless card?

Most major high street establishments will accept contactless payments, including most bars and cafés. Of course, it’s always important to remember your pin just in case but the chances are, you’ll be able to pay using your contactless card in most places you go.

You can also use your contactless debit or credit cardy as an oyster card on trains, buses and the tube. This saves you having to carry around an oyster card or any paper tickets, eliminating part of the need to carry around lots of spare change.

As time goes on, and as the maximum spend goes up, contactless payment will become more and more prevalent. Of course, the reduced security is an issue but as contactless payment does become more and more popular, more security measures are likely to be implemented.