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Will you be forced to use a contactless card?

Barclays contactless debit card

Banks are apparently forcing so-called ‘contactless’ cards on customers. These let shoppers spend with a simple swipe, but is this actually how we want to squander our money – and are banks downplaying the risks?

From previous Conversations it’s clear that many of you aren’t convinced by a cashless society, but it’s creeping up on us whether we like it or not.

Debit card spending overtook cash for the first time last year, and with contactless technology banks appear to be trying their utmost to speed up the process.

All new cards from Barclays, Virgin Money and the Bank of America will now be ‘contactless’ – this lets us pay for transactions under £15 without the need to enter a pin. Think of the London Underground’s Oyster Cards and you’re half way there – these cards just happen to be wired directly into our bank accounts.

How secure are contactless cards?

The banks secure contactless cards by only allowing a small number of daily transactions, up to £50, before a pin number is requested. However, many customers aren’t convinced, believing that thieves could steal up to 50 quid even though they couldn’t get hold of all the cash in their account.

In retaliation, banks have tried to assure that any money lost to fraudulent activity would be refunded straightaway, but would you be willing to take the risk?

There are already 12 million contactless cards in circulation, and they’re accepted in shops like EAT, Co-operative and Ikea. Both HSBC and the Royal Bank of Scotland are running trials before they decide to follow suit, and Lloyds TSB is also weighing up the pros and cons.

Should we be made to go contactless?

But do we want them, and should banks be forcing them upon us? Which? Conversation commenter Sophie Gilbert isn’t interested in contactless tech:

‘I can safely assert that if my bank decides to compulsorily issue me with such a card I will never use it for purchases under £15, and this is what I’ll tell my bank if someone nicks my card and decides to make a string of purchases under £15.’

But Mark Austin, who heads up the development of contactless technology at Visa, says that the cards are much safer than using cash:

‘When you lose a £10 note, it’s gone. There’s usually no way to get it back. But if you lose a contactless card, you are protected by fraud protection and when you alert your bank they’ll refund any money lost.’

Which? Convo reader Peter Partington is a convert, telling us that he can’t wait: ‘Bring it on! I thought of this idea a few years ago as I hate waiting in long queues at the check out.’

So should we just grin and bear the onslaught of contactless technology, or should we be given a choice? Do you think the banks are playing down the potential security risks of the technology, or are you happy to swipe and pay?


I don’t want ‘contactless’ either, but I think there is a risk in punching a hole in a card – I believe a retailer has the right to confiscate a card if s/he believes it has been interfered with. A big hole is obvious interference.

Why are the banks pushing this? They, and the payment systems, take a small cut of the value of every transaction from the seller.

Gerry says:
24 October 2014

Why should the retailer worry? They probably won’t even notice. In most cases they won’t even touch the card because you’ll be using a Chip & Spin terminal. Your PIN will still work (and the signature strip will be unchanged) so they’ll still get paid.

Contactless is being pushed by the Surveillance Society. Eliminating cash helps to eliminate privacy and anonymity. It also means that if you step out of line they can restrict or stop you making any purchases at all. A virtual Ball & Chain, remotely enforced and very effective !

Lessismore says:
24 October 2014

When I needed a Bank Guarantee Card many years ago al that Barclays had was a Barclaycard credit card. I was just out of college I did not want a credit card. I was so cross I wrote and told them so.and I did not use it for years. They sent me a joint Oyster and Barclaycard and I never ever ever used the Oyster. I told them I didn’t want it. I wish I could remember how many years it has taken for them to get the point!

Now contactless cards. I don’t want want one of those either. Yes, I’m one of those people who lives or tries to live within my means. I suppose they’ll try and penalise me for that now.

Just remind me again – who is the customer? It’s alright I do know. I definitely am and I am obviously not banking with the right banks.

Gerry says:
24 October 2014

Just move to Lloyds, M&S or one of the others that doesn’t force you to go contactless.

You can also get a nice freebie when you switch (e.g. a £125 gift card from M&S).

The Halifax, Co-Op and First Direct also offer £100 when you switch (don’t know their contactless policies) but dumping Barclays is a no-brainer !


If you have more than one ‘contactless’ card, keep them together in your wallet and they’ll ‘block’ each other.

No need for RFID security wallets.

When two cards are scanned, they both transmit data – the scanner has no way of separating the data it receives.

Test it out for yourself – try waving two cards at the till next time you buy a bar of chocolate (not fags … I don’t wanna be responsible for your death).

Gerry says:
25 October 2014

Yeah, right… Try that on the Underground and it could be a VERY expensive mistake.

If the entry gate reads one card and the exit gate reads the other card, the system will think that you’ve made TWO incomplete journeys.

Your single journey will therefore result in TWO maximum fares !


Yeah I agree – a REALLY bad place to test out a theory !

That’s where a Yorkie Bar comes in (dark of course). The transaction either works or it fails.
Worse case …. maybe you’ll get two Yorkie Bars.

Helen in Cardiff says:
28 October 2014

Hello all
Just thought I’d add my experiences with Natwest to this conversation. starting a year ago when my NatWest visa debit card was replaced. which came contactless. For all the reasons everyone has mentioned above, I rang, complained and said I did not yet believe in the security of the technology. I may change my mind in future but right now I did not want it. No problem said Natwest, we’ll replace it for a normal chip & pin card. Well it took 2 months, three goes and 2 returned cards before they got it right. but get it right they did ….eventually.
rolling forward to last week and my NatWest credit cards came up for renewal, one visa, one mastercard. Interestingly the visa came chip and pin and the mastercard was contactless. yesterday I got back on the phone to NatWest card services, to the complaints team and let rip my annoyance at having to have this conversation again. This time being told that all their cards are now contactless and they “don’t know why” my replacement visa wasn’t contactless. Suspect my previous request not to have contactless visa debit filtered through to the credit card too.
Obviously where there is a will theres a way and my new visa card demonstrates that it can be done. its not impossible to issue without contactless ……..if they want to.
so ive asked to escalate this further through their complaints procedure as im not about to give up this argument just yet. Although I am considering the drill solution mentioned above.
More interesting given the conversations above is the fact that NatWest claim im the only person who has raised this concern with them. I don’t believe that for a minute.