Q&A: All you need to know about contactless payments

Contactless payments allow you to make single purchases of up to £30. In this article, we take a look at some of the most common questions about the process.


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Contactless payments are becoming increasingly popular, as more of us find it a faster and easier alternative to entering our PIN for every card transaction or even paying by cash.

But if you haven’t yet got to grips with contactless payments, here, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the process.

What is a contactless payment?

Contactless payments allow you to make a quick and easy low-value payment by tapping your contactless-enabled bank card, key fob, smartphone or other wearable device on a payment terminal without entering your PIN.

Your bank card will have a wave symbol on the front if it is ready to use with contactless payment terminals.

How secure are contactless payments?

Contactless payments are as safe and secure as making a payment with your PIN.

Both contactless cards and terminals are embedded with layers of anti-fraud technology and information that is transferred between terminals is secure and difficult to intercept.

Where can I make a contactless payment?

A host of high street retailers, restaurants and supermarkets including Marks and Spencer, Pret A Manger and Tesco accept contactless payments.

The payment terminal will display a wave symbol if contactless payments are accepted.

Do I need to do anything to activate contactless payments on my card?

Once you have received your contactless card in the post, like you would with any other bank card, you will have to call your bank to activate your new plastic.

Often there is a sticker on the front of the card with the telephone number of the activation line, although some banks allow you to activate your card on a paying-in or cash machine in-branch.

You’ll then need to make a normal chip and PIN payment and after that the contactless capability on your card will automatically work.

Will I be charged extra for using contactless?

No, there is no extra charge for making a contactless payment.

How likely is it that I’ll be charged twice for one transaction?

Payment terminals have been especially designed to prevent you paying for the same thing twice, so the chances of you getting charged double are highly unlikely.

Some terminals will ask you to only present one card, if it can detect two, while others might cancel the transaction entirely to avoid overcharging.

Could I make a transaction just by passing a payment terminal unknowingly?

Don’t panic, it’s very unlikely you’ll end up paying for someone else’s shopping as contactless payments only work within a short space.

Typically your card or device needs to be between 2cm and 10cm away from a payment terminal.

Is there a daily limit on how much you can pay on contactless?

There is no daily cap on the number of individual transactions you can make (each up to £30), but occasionally, as an extra security measure, you’ll be asked to enter your PIN to verify you are the account holder.

Can I use contactless on public transport?

You can use your contactless card or device on the London Underground and you will be charged the same fare as you would for an Oyster card transaction.

The London Underground also accepts Apple Pay, but make sure you have enough battery on your phone as you’ll be charged a maximum fare if you’re unable to tap out with your mobile.

What is ‘card clash’?

Card clash can sometimes happen on the Underground and is when an incomplete journey is made using multiple cards.

For example, if you place your wallet on the yellow Oyster terminal, a payment can be logged from a contactless card you did not intend to use.

If you then dock out with your Oyster card, you’ll be charged two maximum fares as you haven’t touched in and out with the same payment method.

Am I protected if there is fraud or theft on my card?

The chip on your card protects against fraudulent activity as it uses a sophisticated system of unique codes and electronic signatures every time a payment is made – reducing the likeliness that your card details can be cloned or intercepted.

If any suspicious activity is noticed on your account your bank’s anti-fraud squad will get in touch with you.

Similarly, from time-to-time you’ll be asked to input your PIN after making a series of contactless payments, as mentioned above.

How much will my bank cover if I lose my contactless bank card?

If money is taken from your account without your permission, the Payment Services Regulations will ensure your bank refunds you.

However, for transactions made before you have reported your card as lost or stolen, you will be liable for the first £50, although some banks may waive it.

What protection do I have if my card is stolen in the post?

If your card hasn’t arrived within 10 working days of ordering it, get in touch with your bank where you can check if it has been stolen or lost.

You can also discuss alternative options such as cancelling the card and getting it sent to your nearest branch. Any fraudulent activity will be covered by the Payment Services Regulations.

What should I do if the contactless card doesn’t work?

If your card doesn’t work after you’ve activated it, talk to your bank about getting a replacement card.

How does it show up on my bank statement?

Every contactless payment you make will show up on your bank statement with the universal contactless wave symbol aside it.

As with chip and PIN transactions and bank transfers, it’s wise to keep an eye on your payment history to make sure small amounts have not been fraudulently taken.

Do I have to use contactless?

You will never be forced to make a contactless payment. While payment terminals offer the choice to pay with contactless, there will always be the option to pay with chip and PIN.

Can I opt out of having a contactless card?

The best thing to do is to contact your bank, as whether you can opt out depends on which bank you are with. HSBC confirmed to us non-contactless cards are available; simply get in touch with them for a new card.

If your bank doesn’t offer the option to opt out, it may be worth considering other current accounts which allow you the choice to remain contactless.

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