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What is a contactless payment card?

Contactless payments, introduced in 2007, have become so popular that now one in three card payments is contactless. There are an estimated 121 million contactless cards issued in the UK.


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.


Safe and secure.


Contactless Visa cards are as secure as any other Visa chip card. They carry the same multiple layers of security, which ensure that you are safe from fraudulent or unauthorised transactions.


Contactless Visa cards work when the card is within 4cm of the card reader and the contactless payment terminal can only process one transaction at a time. Because your contactless Visa cards doesn’t leave your hand during the transaction, you remain in control of your card at all times.


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.


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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.


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