Contactless payments are a quick and popular way of paying for goods. We looked at how they work and how you can make sure they’re secure.
What is contactless payment?
Contactless payment allows you to pay for items by holding your contactless card or device over a payment terminal.
It uses near-field communication (NFC) wireless technology, so no physical contact is needed. Most places accept contactless payments, including public transport systems. With contactless payments, you don’t need to use your PIN, so it's convenient and quick.
This is the symbol for contactless payments:
Contactless payments are also known as “tap and go”.
How do I use contactless?
There are a few ways you can make contactless payments.
Contactless payments can take a few working days to show up on your statement, so you'd need to keep an eye on your spending. You should make sure you’ve got enough money in your account to cover transactions as you could be charged fees by your bank if you don’t.
On your card
Once your card is activated, you can use it wherever contactless payments are accepted. If it's a new card, you'll have to use the PIN for the first transaction for security purposes. The contactless feature can't be disabled on cards, but you can still swipe your card and enter your PIN if you don’t want to use contactless payments.
Contactless cards are secure and are subject to the same fraud prevention measures as Chip and PIN cards. Contactless signals can't be read beyond 10cm, but if you're worried about your card being read unintentionally or fraudulently, you can buy cardholders and wallets that block the signal. If you lose your card, let your bank know straight away to cancel it.
On your phone
There are several mobile-enabled wallets available such as Apple Pay and Google Pay. They work by linking your debit or credit card/s to your smartphone. Your card doesn’t have to be contactless for this to work.
Your phone will have to support NFC to work with contactless payments. You make payments by holding the device over the payment terminal in the same way you would with a card. If you're not sure if your phone is compatible with contactless payments, you can check here for Android users and here for Apple users. You can disable contactless payments on your phone if you want to.
You can also link cards to NFC enabled tablets.
How much can I spend on contactless?
The spending limit for contactless payments was increased to £100 on 15 October 2021. There are no limits to the number of contactless payments you can make in one day, although for security, some card providers will require you to enter your PIN if you make several transactions in a short period.
Some banks will also allow you to set your own contactless limit between £30-100, with others giving you the option to turn off contactless payments altogether.
You'll need to enter your PIN if you use contactless payment cards for transactions above the limit, but if you use a contact-enabled device like your phone, there is no limit. If you are using your phone, make sure to secure your device with a code, fingerprint, or facial recognition.
How can I get contactless?
Most cards already have the contactless facility, but if yours doesn't, you can contact your bank and ask for one. Smartphones and devices will need to have NFC capability. If you prefer not to have a contactless card, speak to your bank. Whilst most banks provide contactless cards, some banks still supply Chip and PIN only cards.
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