A simples guide

Contactless credit and debit cards

Having a contactless payment card can be very handy – it can save you valuable seconds especially if you’re buying stuff in a hurry – like when you grab a coffee before your train leaves. But are contactless cards just another techy fad that’ll end up consigned to the junk drawer along with mini-discs and Betamax or are they only the start of the cashless revolution to come?

How do contactless cards work?

The cards have a chip within them that emits weak radio signals. To buy something using it, you’ll need to hold your contactless card to a payment terminal; the terminal and card will ‘talk’ to each other and if your transaction’s approved you’ll see a green light or hear a beep. You can use your contactless card for anything below £30.


credit card

Are contactless cards better than standard cards?

That’s a tough question and a bit like having to choosing between a jam doughnut and a custard tart – they’re both good but whether one is better than the other ultimately depends on what you fancy at the time.

In many cases, the contactless function of a credit card or debit card will be the only point of difference to a standard card. But it’s not an automatic facility given to everyone so you shouldn’t assume you’ll be able to get one. Most banks will run a credit check on you when you open an account in the first place and if your credit report is more ‘could try harder’ than gold star then you might find you won’t be eligible for a contactless debit card. There may be other reasons why you won’t be eligible, such as if you’re under 18.

On the other hand, chances are if you’ve been approved for a credit card or debit card, then you’ll be issued with a contactless card.

As well as making payments quicker and easier, contactless payment cards can also be used on the Transport for London network – you can use it the same way as you would an Oyster card making contactless convenient as well.

What about safety – can someone steal my money by scanning my card?

It’s highly unlikely that anyone would be able to empty your bank account or buy a yacht (remember, the limit for contactless payments is £30). For starters, your card needs to be close to the payment terminal in order for the transaction to go through and the transaction itself needs to be keyed in.

If anyone did get close enough to scan your card, then the most they’ll get is the card number and expiry date – which are already visible on the front of your card. If someone was really determined to scam you, all they’d have to do is peer over your shoulder when you were using your card.

There’s also very little risk of making duplicate payments. Contactless payment terminals can only make one transaction at a time and every transaction needs to be complete or cancelled before it can make another.

If you keep two or more contactless payment cards in your wallet, then you should take out the card you want to pay with. This is because the payment terminal can only read one contactless card at a time, so if you’ve got a couple in your wallet and try to pay by tapping it on the card reader, the two contactless cards will clash signals and confuse the payment terminal meaning your payment won’t go through. Contactless cards are just as safe as chip and PIN cards.

If you really don’t fancy having a contactless card or you really, really want one then you can try talking to your bank or building society. Ultimately it’s at their discretion what they issue you with. So if you’re looking for a credit card or looking to open up an account with a debit card perhaps look for providers that give you the option of going contactless or not.

How do I compare contactless debit and credit cards?

Start with your needs. In terms of credit cards you might want to consider interest free periods or 0% balance transfer offers. If you’ve got a few purchases planned, then having a card with 0% interest will let you borrow without interest charges so long as you pay off the balance by the end of the 0% offer.

Or, if you’ve got an outstanding debt that you want to manage then moving it to a card that offers 0% on balance transfers will let you pay off your debt without incurring more interest charges.

You can also use our current account tables to find out if you’re getting the best deal based on your circumstances and maybe find yourself a new contactless debit card.

Of course you know the best way to compare credit cards and current accounts is to comparethemarket and to give credit where it’s due – as one of the UK’s largest comparison sites, we’re bound to find a credit card deal to suit you – so what are you waiting for – let’s compare.

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