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Contactless payment cards – are you a sceptic?

NatWest debit card with contactless symbol

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.

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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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.