Contactless payment cards

What is a contactless payment card?

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Contactless payments, introduced in 2007, have become so popular that now one in three card payments is contactless. There are an estimated 112 million contactless cards issued in the UK.

Waiter taking contactless card payment

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What is a contactless payment?

Contactless payments are payments made by waving or tapping your contactless device – usually a card or smartphone – over a reader, which then accepts the payment.

Contactless credit cards

How does contactless work?

Contactless credit cards have a chip inside them that emits radio waves. An antenna is built into the plastic to secure the connection with a contactless reader. This is known as radio frequency identification (RFID) technology.

To pay for something with a contactless credit card, you hold the card near a payment terminal (known as an RFID reader) and it picks up the signal, communicates with the card and processes the payment.

The payment terminal will say if the payment was successful or not. Sometimes it doesn’t work, and you’ll need to use your pin instead.

Mobile phones and other electronic devices use something called near-field communication (NFC) to transmit data – which is based on the technology used in RFID.

How do I make contactless payments?

You can make contactless payments with a number of devices. The most common are debit or credit cards and mobile phones, however you can also use:

  • Fitness trackers
  • Watches
  • Wristbands 
  • Key fobs
  • Stickers

As well as making payments, the technology might also be used for opening doors or even as a security pass. You can recognise contactless devices by the logo, which is made up of four bold lines making a wave symbol.

UK Finance data for June 2017

Where can I use contactless payments?

Contactless technology is becoming more and more widespread, which means you’re able to use it in a number of places. This includes various shops, restaurants, bars, cafes, and even automated services such as vending machines.

Some places also allow contactless to be used on public transport – for example, in London you can use your phone or contactless card for buses, tubes, trams, and more.

What are the pros and cons of contactless payment?

Contactless payments are a convenient alternative to cash and Chip and PIN for a number of reasons.

Firstly, using any form of contactless payments means you won’t have to spend time entering your PIN, while using your phone lets you pay for items without rooting around your purse or wallet.

Contactless payments also have a number of extra security measures in place, such as limiting the number of transactions you can make before having to enter your PIN. Some contactless service providers also impose a limit on the size of transactions you can make – most commonly set at £30 for contactless debit and credit cards. If you exceed this amount, you might to pay using Chip and PIN.

However this doesn’t apply to mobile contactless payments as you generally have to pass another layer of identification to unlock and use the phone, such as a finger print or iris scan or a passcode.

Unfortunately contactless cards can carry risks – if your card is stolen or lost, someone might be able to use it to make contactless purchases. This makes it even more important to report your card to your provider as soon as you notice it’s missing.

Additionally it can help to check your bank and credit statements regularly for fraudulent activity – some banks even indicate what transactions were made using contactless payments with a contactless symbol. Likewise, you should report any unrecognised transactions to your bank immediately.

 

Comparing credit cards

Credit cards can be a convenient way to manage your money and build a credit history, but it’s important to find one that matches your needs so you can take advantage of the benefits they might provide. It’s easier to find the right card when you compare your options, and on MoneySuperMarket you can browse through a number of deals from various providers.

All you need to do is enter a few details about yourself and your finances, and you’ll be able to see what interest rates they offer as well as any benefits you might also get. Our Eligibility Checker will help you to see the cards you’re most likely to be accepted for, without hurting your credit score. Once you’ve found the right card, click through to the provider and you can finalise the deal.

Most new cards issued are contactless, though you can ask your provider for a Chip and PIN card instead if you prefer. Just be aware your bank might not allow you to have a contactless card if you have a poor credit rating.

Moneysupermarket is a credit broker – this means we’ll show you products offered by lenders. We never take a fee from customers for this broking service. Instead we are usually paid a fee by the lenders – though the size of that payment doesn’t affect how we show products to customers.

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