/ Money

Contactless cards: would you opt out of having one?

contactless payment card

Contactless debit and credit cards are fast becoming the default payment method for purchases under £30 across the UK, with spending on them having tripled to £25bn last year. But are you happy using them?

Fears about fraudsters using mobile card readers to ‘lift’ sensitive financial details from our wallets have been lurking ever since contactless cards were introduced.

It’s even led to some people buying specially designed protective wallets, or stuffing their existing wallets with foil, to protect themselves.

We don’t think these steps are essential, but there are certainly a number of flaws with contactless cards that appear to put users at greater risk of fraud.

For starters, in an investigation we carried out late last year, our researchers managed to spend over £200 on contactless cards without ever being asked for a Pin.

It’s also emerged that contactless cards can often be used months after they’ve been reported lost or stolen. And most banks often don’t tell customers when their cancelled card is used, relying on them to identify fraudulent payments themselves.

As Michael says:

‘We’re now told that contactless cards can be used for up to three months after cancellation. Banks must have known that, but didn’t let on, and should be liable for all transactions after a card is cancelled.’

No choice

In spite of these flaws, some banks appear to be forcing contactless cards on their customers.

Of the 16 credit and debit card providers, we investigated last year, all of them sent contactless cards to new customers by default.

Five of them wouldn’t allow customers, like Jane, to opt out of receiving them.

‘On my previous renewal I got a regular card and credit card after complaining that I did not want contactless cards. However, on 30 January, my MasterCard was due for renewal and came contactless. My bank apologised but said there was nothing they could do… I feel I’m being forced to find another provider, despite being a customer for many, many years.’

Unacceptable situation?

Now, a group of MPs has told banks that customers should always be given the option to say no to contactless cards if they wish.

The Commons Treasury select committee also accused banks of putting customers in an ‘unacceptable situation’ of being vulnerable to security flaws when using contactless cards, and called for the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to help enforce stricter security to prevent fraud.

For its part, the FCA claims to be working on reducing the likelihood of ‘post-cancellation fraud’, but does this go far enough?

Would you opt out of using contactless cards, if given the chance? If so, what would it take for you to embrace this new technology? Or are you happy with your contactless cards?


We were in a coffee shop the other week. Hubby got out a credit card to pay but was told he had paid already.

The contactless machine had selected an unknown card from his wallet to pay with. Worrying.

I did some experiments when I received my first contactless card and it had to be close to the reader. I will carry out some more experiments now that far more places accept contactless cards.

It concerns me that I have to ask for a receipt for small transactions, and I always insist on one for contactless payments.

I do think it should be mandatory to issue a paper receipt for all contactless payments.

Bairnontour says:
8 December 2017

Have Which? studied and evaluated defence mechanisms to protect contactless cards from skimming theft? For example, a product called Skim/Guard has recently been heavily advertised in one of the broadsheets. Does it work? Does putting aluminium foil in your wallet help? Any other ideas?

It would be interesting to know what the risks are, so that we can decide on whether protection is necessary. The industry reckons that contactless cards are safe: http://www.paymentscardsandmobile.com/21221-2/ The press has warned us that this is not the case.

I have been carrying around and using contactless cards for some time and have not had an unauthorised withdrawal. My understanding was that I would be asked to insert a PIN periodically, but this does not seem to be happening now. Maybe if I tried to make multiple purchases in a day, this would happen.

Some independent information and advice would be very helpful.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

We might all be a bit surprised to learn how much companies etc. know about us by data aggregation. As the use of contactless cards has increased, so has fraud: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-39942246

How many times has a contactless card been skimmed in regards to other types of card fraud NO technology anywhere is 100 % safe Someone somewhere always find a way to beat the latest “secure” system Do not worry at all you will make yourself ill

Bairnontour also asked about the use of aluminium foil to shield cards from skimming. Does it work? Are there any side effects?

Here is a short video that suggests that using foil is helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJEtRlmEneU Unfortunately, there is conflicting information elsewhere.

The video shows that the customer’s name can be obtained from a contactless card whereas other sources say that the card does not hold this information.

It would be useful to have some up to date information from a trustworthy source.

It seemed to be saying that the name is obtainable from Visa cards [available from several different issuers] but not from Mastercard cards, the other popular credit card.

Not given explicitly in the interview is a warning not to order anything on-line from a supplier that does not require the three-digit security code on the back of the card. This detail is not obtainable by a skimming device and is generally taken as evidence that the person ordering the goods is in possession of the card at the time of placing the order.

[I cannot guarantee that the information given above is from a trustworthy source.]

Thanks John. Regarding the security code, what I do is to remember it and obliterate it with a black marker, so that it cannot be used by anyone else to order online or by phone. Gone are the days when goods could only be sent to the cardholder’s address.

I just got new credit cards from Natwest, and when I asked about having non-contactless cards, I was told that I couldn’t have them. I’m now considering finding another provider. It would be nice to have a list of the providers that do/don’t offer non-contactless cards, as searching the internet isn’t proving very helpful.

This is on the NatWest International website (not sure of the significance of international):

It points out that a non-contactless card will have reduced functionality.

C Roebuck says:
12 January 2018

I was angry to receive contactless cards both debit & credit even though I had specifically requested not to go contactless .I was informed by NAT WEST if i wanted non contactless cards I had to cancel all of my accounts & join the bank all over again to gain new account numbers.I did this & still had contactless cards sent to me.I was then informed only contactless cards are provided & I am not allowed to have non contactless – are we now in a communist state with no rights of our own ?

I am sure at some point all cards will be contactless and something else will replace that with advancing technology. We all have to move forward with the times and if you don’t like what a company offers then move to one that has what you want. Security on contactless is a concern but no more than a stolen card number been used for an online purchase as you don’t need the pin number or the physical card.

I have two contactless cards and so far have not had any bother except for when I was sent a new one after the old one expired and i forgot to use my PIN for the first transaction. I find them much easier to use rather than fiddling around trying to find the correct amount of cash in my purse that often becomes overloaded with loose change, so every now and then I empty it into a drawstring bag and take it to a charity shop.

The root of the problem of course is not so much the cards but the sick miscreants without a conscience who first objectify other people which then allows them to relieve them of their money. They are societies worthless contemptible individuals who have lost their way and thrown away the humanitarian key.

It was quite interesting to note from article in Daily Mail that Victoria Clelland, Chief Cashier of the Bank of England chooses not to have one! My motto, if its easier to use its easier to abuse!

Ria says:
19 June 2019

I loathe and detest contactless cards with a passion, and I refuse to have one. My bank (Clydesdale) were quite happy to issue me with non-contactless debit cards, but my credit card provider (Capital One), whilst initially doing so when I opened the account, now says my next card that will be issued when my current one runs out, will be contactless whether I like it or not. So they have now lost my business.

I have just had to renew my Lloyds debite cards due to ware and tear. This card does not have the contactless feature but I have been told the only replacement card available has the contactless feature.
This is forcing me into holding a card which is insecure. I will of course be changing banks depite having been with Lloyds for some 45 years. I can not let myself be exposred to these, unnessary risks.