A Guide to Contactless Payments

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You might have heard people talking about contactless payments and wondered what on earth they’re talking about. It could also be that you have a card and don’t know how to use it or are too afraid to ask! For some, a contactless payment card is a way to swifter purchases and getting on with life just a little bit quicker. Are they for you – why not read on and find out?

Frequently Thought Questions

We’ve put together this guide to answer those questions about contactless payment cards, which you haven’t yet asked. They’re still in your head, and the good news is that they can stay there. Now all you have to do is carry on for the answers.

What is a contactless payment card?

Contactless is a function on some debit, credit and prepaid cards that allows you to make a quick and easy payment for goods or services without entering a PIN. Instead, you simply place your card on the reader and your payment is done.

Is there a limit on the transaction value?

Yes. Contactless payments can be made up to a value of £30.

Is my card contactless? 

You’ll be able to tell whether your card is contactless or not by looking at it.

If it is it will carry one of these symbols. 

Can I make contactless payments everywhere I go? 

Not at the moment. Places that you can make contactless payments will display the same wave symbol you see on your card. The list is growing but includes most major retailers and many familiar names.

How do contactless cards work?

The cards have a chip within them that emits weak radio signals. When you hold your contactless card to a payment terminal, the terminal and card will ‘talk’ to each other. If your transaction’s approved you’ll see a green light or hear a beep. 

Is there a charge for using a contactless card?

No, contactless payments are free.

I used contactless and had to enter my pin. Why?

Occasionally, you may be asked to enter your PIN at the terminal. Don’t worry, this is just a security check. It’s simply verifying that you – as the authorised cardholder, are still the one with the card.

Why would I get a contactless card?

It’s super quick. For a start, there’s no need to hang around entering your PIN, simply tap and you’re gone. Hopefully that means there’s no need to queue for so long. Contactless should speed up the time it takes to make your payment. Also, it’s becoming more and more common – you don’t want to be left out!

Where do I get one? 

You don’t need to get an additional card. The new contactless functionality is now provided on most  standard credit, debit, charge or pre-paid cards. If you can’t see the symbol on your card give your provider a call and see if you can get a contactless card. 

Can anyone get one? 

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. This is because some transactions appear ‘offline’ so banks and building societies can’t always tell whether you have money in your account to cover you.

What if my card is lost or stolen?

As with any card, the most important thing you can do is report the loss immediately. As soon as your card is reported, it’s unlikely that you’ll be liable for any further transactions. 

If your card's used without your permission you are protected by the Lending Code and shouldn't lose money as a consequence, provided you inform the bank within 13 months of the fraudulent transaction and you have not acted fraudulently or without reasonable care (e.g. you haven't disclosed your PIN to someone else, or written it down and kept it with the card). As long as you meet these conditions, your bank or building society will usually reimburse you for your loss.

However, you're liable for up to £50 of any fraudulent spending that happens before you report the card's loss or theft to your bank. So if thieves spend £300 from your account before you warn the bank, you may only get £250 back. That's why it's vital to report a lost or stolen card the moment you realise it's gone.

In addition, every bank sets a limit on the number or value of contactless transactions that can be made before a cardholder is asked to enter their PIN. At this point it would be impossible for someone to use the card they’ve found and stolen. Additionally, your bank is routinely looking out for any unusual transactions that may show that it’s someone other than you using your card.

Do I need to be careful how I use the card when paying?

Most of us keep our cards in some sort of wallet and the temptation is to tap the wallet on the payment terminal. If you have more than one card in your wallet, in theory you could be charged twice or your Oyster card and credit or debit card could be charged.

However, before you panic, banks do use technology that should prevent this happening, and only one card should be charged. In the case of Oyster, that will usually take priority if presented with another card.

There’s a simple way to avoid this issue though. Take out the card and present it properly to the terminal. That way there’s no risk.

How do I compare contactless debit and credit cards?

Remember, contactless is a simply additional functionality in your card. As most providers now offer contactless payments, the real question is how you compare credit cards or bank accounts offering debit cards. We’ve made the process of doing both of those things really simple. We’ve created comprehensive comparison tools for both so you simply need to decide which to visit first! Try it today.

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