Contactless payment cards – are you a sceptic?

by , Money Researcher Money 16 September 2013
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Love ‘em or hate ‘em, contactless cards are going to become increasingly common. According to the UK Cards Association, 33m have been issued and 6.8m contactless transactions are made each month.

NatWest debit card with contactless symbol

A growing number of big retailers are also accepting contactless. For example, Waitrose expects to have contactless terminals in all of its stores by the end of this month. Other brands, such as Pret a Manger and Boots, already have them in all their stores.

And it’s not just big companies. Several times over the past few months I’ve been able to pay contactlessly when grabbing some drinks in the pub or buying a cheeky chocolate bar. And from next year it will be possible to use contactless cards to pay for all London transport journeys.

So, contactless debit and credit cards are clearly taking over, but are you wary of them?

Contactless card concerns

I must admit that I had my reservations when I received my contactless card in the post. After all, I thought, how much effort and time will it really save? But it’s so quick and easy that I’m a complete convert – I now find it frustrating when I’m not able to pay contactlessly.

I did initially have concerns about security. For instance, what if my card’s stolen? Well, each of the main card issuers told us that after a few transactions the user would be prompted for a Pin to prevent a fraudster running up a big bill. And our research suggests that a thief would only be able to spend £45-£100 before being asked to type in a Pin.

And providing you report the loss quickly you should receive a refund from your bank. In theory you could be liable for the first £50, but in practice banks are unlikely to charge you this.

Another issue is the possibility of ‘data leakage’ from the card. Researchers have shown that it’s possible to get some details, such as your card number and expiry date, by enabling a mobile phone to act as a card reader. Although this wouldn’t be enough to clone the card, it may be enough to make online purchases on sites that don’t ask for the CVV number (the last three digits on the back of your card).

Still, it has to be said that so far there isn’t any evidence that contactless card fraud is a problem. However, this kind of fraud may become more appealing. We’d like banks and card providers to remain vigilant and take action if there’s evidence of fraudsters exploiting security loopholes.

Should you be able to opt-out?

While I’m happy with my contactless card, I know others would prefer not to have one.

When we spoke to 10 of the biggest debit card providers in the UK, we found that most banks now issue them as standard to new customers and also for card renewals. Only Nationwide has no current plans to issue contactless cards, with Santander planning to start issuing them in the final months of this year.

But most banks will also let you opt-out of having a contactless debit card if you don’t want it one. Out of the banks that have issued them only the Co-operative Bank told us it wouldn’t let you opt-out.

The situation is a bit different with credit cards. Out of 10 of the biggest providers in the UK half issue contactless credit cards – Amazon, American Express, Barclaycard, Capital One and MBNA – and none of them offer the option to opt-out. Barclaycard, the biggest credit card provider in the UK, told us that it would be happy to offer a non-contactless card if there was demand, but they haven’t experienced this.

In our survey, 83% of Which? members told us they think you should be able to opt-out of having a contactless card if you don’t want one. We think consumer choice is important and people should be able to opt-out of having a contactless card if they don’t want one.

What do you think – are you happy to have a contactless card or would you prefer to opt-out? Have you asked to opt-out and been refused?

Should you be able to opt-out of contactless payment cards?

Yes (92%, 613 Votes)

I don't know (5%, 33 Votes)

No (3%, 19 Votes)

Total Voters: 665

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Add your comments



I’d love to be able to opt out, maybe you should run a poll on that very subject.

Banks and security don’t really sit very well in the same sentence, as they have no idea, and why should they, as it always the customers that end up paying, regardless of what they do or don’t do.

Do we know if amazon have started to ask for a CVV number yet ? They never used to.



The apparent inability of stopping Amazon automatically storing CC details against your account is really annoying.



Security does concern me, difficult to challenge a transaction or even keep track of them.
The way some Retailers details get reported on statements doesnt help with quite a few seemingly unconnected to the name of the shop used.



I definitely don’t want this facility on a debit card. I use a debit card only for cash withdrawals and on the rare occasions that debit cards are accepted and not credit cards (or when credit cards are surcharged).

I’m very happy to have this potentially convenient facility on my credit cards. If there is an error or problem, then with a credit card any temporary loss is the card issuer’s money; with a debit card any temporary loss is your own money. The consequences are very different.



My amex card has this facility and I find it quite useful although I have only found M&S have suitable terminals at the moment. the only problem that I have met is that the technology seems a little fragile at the moment, sometimes it simply does not work.

I agree with rarrar about the way that some retailer’s details are reported. It can be very confusing when a purchase from company A appears on the statement as a payment to company B. This is particularly so when the sum involved is a round number – say£100 – it can then be difficult to work out whether the payment is for a real transaction or an erroneous one. I feel that all entries on credit card statements should be in the name of the organisation from which the purchase was made. Apologies for going off topic but I do feel this to be an important subject, perhaps a separate conversation would be appropriate.



Perhaps I should have mentioned that the M&S transaction limit for contactless purchases is £20.



Having not heard of major problems, I am prepared to try a contactless card, providing that I can set or agree to the limit for a transaction.



As far as I am aware, the current arrangement across all cards is that there is a £20 limit on single transactions with a PIN entry being requested if the facility is used often within a short time.



That makes sense. Thanks very much Tony.



have heard that passing a contact less terminal might read your card,
to avoid this purchase a aluminium wallet!



My experience is that a card needs to be very close to the reader for it to register. It seems very unlikely that simply walking past a reader would activate it. An aluminum wallet is of most use to prevent fraudsters ‘harvesting’ information from cards. I have lined my wallet with several layers of aluminium foil, hopefully this will be sufficient protection.



I have been refused an optout from MBNA on my card renewal



Having had a few animated conversations with my card issuer and my bank it is obvious that the reason contactless cards are compulsory is that credit card usage in the USA has risen by 45%.
Fraud averages £40 to £100.
They tell me that any “fraudulant” transaction will be returned. The exact meaning of “fraudulant” seems to be missing. So if a card has been used “fraudulantly” the card is stopped. Thats great!
So no card! Cancel your card, issue another and off we go again.Meanwhile you could be £100 down.



As a new member of Which?, I’m coming in a little late to this conversation, but do so as a result of my wife’s experience today.
Making a small value purchase, she wished to have some cash back as it was more convenient to do this in store. She is visually impaired so does not use chip and PIN but chip and signature. Prior to the transaction she made the shop assistant aware, but to both their astonishment the transaction went through for the item only and no option was given to have cash back. Several attempts were made by patient store staff but in the end she was referred to her bank (The Co-opertative). Although inconvenient she made her way there and explained the dilemma. The answer seemed to be that the equipment in the shop was badly located and one part was interfering with another causing the problem. On asking about an alternative to a contactless card she was basically told ‘you’ve got it, there is no alternative so get on with it’! I know this is untrue as the same bank told me that if I was really set against the contactless card I could have a Visa Electron instead. The problem is that there are drawbacks with this sort of card as it is not recognised in some places as an acceptable alternative.
Once again the needs of the visually impaired are being ignored and, yet again, the banks are riding slipshod over anyone who dares to argue with them. This is yet another example of the banks deciding what is best for them and we are going to be made to pay for the inevitable mistakes that will occur.


David Robinson

I used my ‘touch’ debit card yesterday for the first time at lidl. This is the first shop that I have found actually using them. I would love to be able to unload my wallet of all but one card and have access on my phone. There may well be security concerns but I am sure these can be overcome.



I have just cancelled my Barclaycard because it has become Contactless.
They are apparently unable (for which read unwilling!) to disable this facility.

They also say there is no demand for non-contactless cards (your survey shows the exact opposite).

Barclaycard are clearly so afraid of their unreliable and fraudulent-risky product that they will not give their customers a choice to opt out.



HSBC has joined the list of banks that refuse to give it’s customers the choice, they refuse both requests for a non-contactless card and requests to have the facility disabled. Lets see them refuse my request to close my account. Some card readers don’t give you the choice either, I bought a ticket at Euston Station a few days ago, put my card in the reader, went to put my PIN in, only to find that it had been processed as a contactless payment.

How about a face saving compromise from the banks – allow customers to set their own limits on the number and value of daily transactions, mine would be one a day for a maximum amount of one penny.



Follow up to my last post. HSBC realised that they could provide me with a non-contactless card – but only after I threatened to close my account.



I had exactly the same experience with Barclaycard and expect similar with other banks but there is a demand which may well increase when the risks this system pose become better publicised. Interestingly every worry I had over these cards was answered with the same assertion that they are totally safe. Santander changed a contactless debit card to one without, for which I am very grateful.
Allowing customers to set the frequency of requiring a PIN input could be the best compromise otherwise I won’t entertain using a card with this system.
I hope the banks will refund fraudulent payments out of their profits


Jeree P

I love the idea of the convenience of a contactless card, but the fact remains that it is less secure and if the bank insists that you pay the first £50 of any loss due to theft then aren’t they just making you pay for a breach in security that they have forced on us?



Especially when it’s getting even harder to get a non contactless card.



It is fair that we should take responsibility for our cards but not reasonable for the banks to insist that we accept contactless cards. I’m happy with the small risk of losing £50 if I’m careless but we should be fighting against being forced to accept these cards.


Dave A

I had duplicate transactions in June on my MBNA credit card on several London bus journeys – as well as charging my pre-paid Oyster card, my credit card was also charged for the fares as it was in the same wallet with my Oyster card, which is also contactless.

I was only alerted to this when I had a problem exiting the barriers at a tube station as the barrier said there was an error, and when I spoke to the London Underground guy at the barriers he told me about the charging problem on the buses.

Since then, I’ve disabled the NFC chip on the card by severing the connections to the antenna by driving a small flat-bladed screwdriver through them – if you shine a very bright torch through the card you can see clearly where the “wires” are.

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