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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?

Anne says:
18 January 2011

Why would I want a card that’s LESS secure?!

Questioning RFID tec says:
20 June 2012

The Banks should provide RFID protective sleaves to be issued with the cards this will block out any transmittion between the card and skimming devices.

I certainly won’t use them. It is bad enough with the amount of fraud already. To try to track tiny amounts is very difficult. That will lead to further fraud.

A few years ago – I noticed a withdrawal of £2.50 only because I don’t use my cards for so little – I enquired – found it was a fraud – told the Bank – But still they allowed a withdrawal of £350 from the same company. The money was refunded – but if your account is filled with tiny amounts – you’ll never find them – and it is YOU that have to tell the bank – not the other way round.

One trick to far, no I don’t trust this form of possible remote fraud.
I am sure there is a way to scam someone else to pay for your goods and it will happen soon.

Crooks are getting clever, still idiots in other ways though.

Kire says:
28 April 2011

Quite enthused by the contactless card convenience, until I found it stops you getting through the gates on the Underground if its in your wallet with your Oyster card.

Also wondering, If you have two, say a Barclays and a Lloyds contactless card in wallet, will both get charged per swipe?

As for the £50 limit, if you loose it, it is the £50 note that keeps on giving (until cancelled)

We have enough way to pay money. Do we need contactless card. I have one but now I leave at home. What is the security? If you use one time if any other wireless system on may money goes. If you still have to put pin noo for every use than why we need contact less card.

FIFTEEN pounds is a lot of money, let alone FIFTY! If I lose a tenner, that’s it – I would have lost a tenner. If I was stupid enough to start (or carry on if I was already a customer) banking with Barclays, and my card was stolen, I’d lose several lots of £15, up to £50 a day, until I realised my card was stolen and was able to cancel it. Much LESS secure than cash, especially as we have now learned that people can use their mobile phones to read the cards and buy stuff with the details. No customers asked for this, so OBVIOUSLY the only reason the contactless cards were created is so that banks can blame customers when money goes missing. [Comment edited by Mods]

Daedalus says:
18 June 2011

I Just want the choice.
I have Oyster and a door card for the office both NFC in my wallet as well as my bank cards. I have other contactless cards I dont put in the wallet as they interfere with each other when “activated”. which means if I keep them together I have to stop and take cards out each time i want to use one. very inconveniant and time consuming.
with the new contactless payment cards we will all need to stop and take our oyster cards out at the tube station delaying everyone unlike now where you just touch your wallet on the reader and walk through without wasting time and exposing the contents of your wallet. oyster Ticket Barrier readers will be able by 2012 to take funds directly from bank cards. and this transaction will NEVER require a pin. and oyster get payments wrong regularly now from PAYG cards so why trust them with direct access to your bank.
Its not just the one day £50. If the card gets cloned its the continiual drip of transactions that you or the bank may not notice but could add up to far more than this.
for the time and conveniance benifit compared to the reduction in security sorry i do not want this and beleive that it would for me increase time and be more inconveniant.
The banks keep commenting about loosing cash and not being able to get this back. that is a concious decision that we can all make for our selves. I personally dont often walk arround with £50 in cash in my wallet. (i wish i could) and when i do its usually as i have to pay someone who does not take cards or will carge me ~1.5% for “the priveledge”
Who will have and use all the profiling data. showing where we are, what we spend our money on all of which can be captured using data analaysis. which marketing organisations pay the financial institutions and supermarkets lots of money for. loyalty cards are not for our benifit thats just a cost to teh organisation of getting the valuable data which is worth more to them.

I just want the ability to make a choice if i want contactness payment cards using all the avaliable data. I dont want this to be forced on me. i thought the banks were a service industry. they are not offering me the service I want they are trying to force me to have a service i dont want.

I don’t think this tech makes cards any more or less susceptible to fraud; ultimately it’s your details – not the card itself – that the criminals are interested in.

The biggest problem the banks face with trying to force this service upon us is that they are rolling out the cards in London/South East and there is a major issue with interefernece with Oyster cards. For me, one card had to go. I use my Oyster at least twice a day. I dont shop at any retailers that accept contactless. The contactless debit card got sent back to the bank.

As I see it the retailers wont install terminals until there is a demand from consumers, and consumers wont want to use it until it is proven safe and secure.

All of this probably doesnt matter anyway as we will all be paying using our mobiles in 5 years anyway….have a look at Japan.

Info Net UK says:
18 June 2011

Banks need to be reminded they are the servant not the master. People use banks to look after their money until they need it. In the meantime, the banks use the money to earn more, and in some cases even pay interest. The customer is king, however nowadays banks tendt to forget this. For example, they are phasing out cheques. They haven’t asked me if I’m happy with this idea. A cheque is a written instruction to a bank to pay an amount to someone else. If the bank refuses to issue a new cheque book, write out the ‘instruction’ on paper, and have the recipient present it to their bank. There have been cases of cheques being written on toilet seats, so maybe nip into B&Q and get a cheap one for this. Don’t allow yourself to be dictated to by banks. They offer a service, which we can choose to either accept, or not. If they cannot or do not provide a service you want or need, find another bank that does. Banks want us to deposit our money with them, so make sure they acknowledge that is us who are doing them a favour, not the other way round.

Martin says:
21 September 2011

So if we get to the point were we have contactless Amex, Visa, MasterCard and a couple of debit cards.That makes 5x £50 = £250 potential loss if I lose my wallet. I never carry that much cash, ergo cash is safer.

That said I found a schematic of the cards which shows that they have several antennae running round the edge, I suspect using a hole punch to make a hole in one corner will break the antennae and disable the chip and pin. Most retailers don’t even look at the card so wouldn’t see the hole and query it; although a similar coloured resin could be used to hide it.

Martin says:
21 September 2011

Oops – meant to say “contactless mechanism” not “chip and pin” in my previous post

RichyRich says:
24 October 2011

Just to confirm Oyster problem is real.
Never had a problem with my oyster card in 5+ years of use.
At the weekend, got and activated my new credit card (which has contactless thing), and now my oyster won’t get read at the barriers unless I take oyster card out of my wallet (thus causing a queue to build up behind me!!).

Alan Gurney says:
23 January 2012

I also Oystercard problem – Barclays will not let me have a debit card that is not contactless.

I use my Oystercard daily, by debit card a few of times year for emergencies only. If I cannot store them both in my wallet then I will not have my debit card when I need it.

All they will offer me is an electron card.

Will the banks be offering electron cards for those who only need to access their cash in an emergency?

I have just seen these RFID Blockers, where you slip your bank card into an sleeve and once inside cancels out the contactless signal.

Which I believe would solve this preoblem but in fairness, our appropriate banks should send us one out for free if they dont want us to opt out of using contactless technology. 😀

What do you reckon?

Pangit says:
30 April 2012

There must be a customer choice of having a contactless card or not having a contactless card.
The contactless card must be by customer request only and the non contactless card being the default.
If the bank will only send you a contactless card then you can disable the contactless part by using a drilling through the contactless chip. The card will still work as a contact card as the contact chip and the magnet strip are still present.

So where is all this heading:
1. First to get everybody to use contactless cards.
2. To encourage everyone to stick the contactless card to their mobil phone (Barclays will send you a sticky card for your mobil phone).
3 The theory is that the one thing that everybody carries around with them is their Mobil Phone thus the best place to stick the card.
4. Everybody will eventualy get a mobil phone that can host Apps on it and have built in contactless technology.
5. Then you will only need to carry your mobil and no cards.
6. You will then be able to transfer money on your mobil Phone to another persons Mobil Phone and visaversa. so you will never need to carry cash. An example of use is:
You go to a resteraunt with a group of friends and you all order meals etc. When it comes to settling the bill one person pays the bill via his contactless mobil Phone. The APP on the phone is used to divide the total bill between the friends and then each friends mobil is used via the contactless technology to transfer money from each of the friends Mobil Phone’s to the mobil phone of the person who paid the bill.
This technology is already available and in use!! One of the companies producing it is called Monitise.
The banks/credit card companies will save a fortune as they will never need to send out cards again.
They will also be able to cut of your credit instantly via your Mobil (Think of smart meters for your gas and electricty)
The Downside:
1.The information gathered from every transaction will be worth billions to companies for marketing.
2. Every government dept will have access to every transaction for every person as well as the GPS location.
3. The possibility of fraud very high.
4. If you have several credit/bank accounts etc how will you be able to choose which one is credited or debited.
5. The banks/credit companies will have a field day if your phone is stolen and not pay you anything.
6. You will be an even more desirable target of mugging for your mobil.
7. If you pay your baby sitter for a couple of hours via contactless Mobil the government will be chaseing you to pay their National Insurance employee and employer tax etc.
7. The list is endless I’m sure you can think of a lot more

As for me I hardly ever pay for any goods purchased via a card – Nearly always cash. I ony use a card on the internet – usualy via Paypal.

I’m much less likly to be mugged for my cash than I am for an expensive Mobil as thieves now believe that most people carry very little cash.

Steve in Essex says:
26 September 2012

“3 The theory is that the one thing that everybody carries around with them is their Mobil Phone thus the best place to stick the card.
4. Everybody will eventualy get a mobil phone that can host Apps on it and have built in contactless technology.”

I know many people, not all old, who do not have a mobile, or only have one in the glove box of their car for emergencies.

But most of them do use credit cards and debit cards. Credit cards for big ticket items, debit cards to draw cash.

I suspect that, as the banks found when they tried to kill cheques, the resistance will be massive.

Chris says:
2 May 2012

I only recently learned about these contact-less cards. We found one in my husband’s wallet, we had no idea that it contained a RFID chip. It has been cut up and a letter sent to the credit-card company in question, telling them that if they can’t issue a normal card then they can stuff their account.
I do understand that many folk would consider this technology highly useful. The problem lies in the fact that eventually it would make cash obsolete. Why should we worry? Well, intelligent people have already worked that out; the person who posted on 30th April with his/her list makes a good start.
A digital currency would mean that ALL your transactions are traceable, giving all manner of questionable “authorities” the right to nose into your affairs. You won’t be able to buy or sell anything without someone knowing about it…..someone who has no real right to know. You wont be able to give someone a small payment in cash because cash would be gone….so no pocket money for children, no car boot sales unless everyone has a rfid card reader, no cheapy purchases in charity shops because the shops wont be able to afford rfid card readers and the associated merchant accounts; small organisations rely on cash purchases, donations etc so that’ll be them made obsolete as well.

As for the mobile phone stuff……don’t assume that “everyone” has got one. Not everyone wants one. And why should “everyone” be forced to buy one simply to carry out banking and paying for things? How nice for the mobile phone companies, a forcibly-created market of new customers, all being bullied into purchasing mobile phones because cash has been eradicated!

It doesnt take much thinking before you realise just exactly where this could all lead. Function creep always happens. In the old days, the banks were servants of the people, taking care of their money and giving help and advice. Today, the banks are your Masters, dictating HOW you pay, WHAT card you MUST have, and charging you (hidden of course) for the “privilege”. It is all absolutely and completely wrong.

People are now merely functional units as far as businesses and banks are concerned. We are rapidly losing control of OUR OWN money, to pay in the manner we wish and to buy/sell what we wish without some confounded spy-in-the-sky or other digital system faithfully recording our every move.
And in essence a digital-money system can be far more easily controlled by totalitarian governments than cash systems. Your card or phone can be switched off electronically if you’ve been a naughty boy or girl, and immediately you become helpless; no way of paying for anything, so no food, no drink, no clothes, no petrol, no nothing. It’s almost the perfect tool for social control and engineering.

This last paragraph alone should be enough to stir people’s thoughts. Think about what is being proposed—er, pushed. In a benign world, such systems might be acceptable. But our world is not benign right now.

Neil says:
15 June 2012

re the pay-by-phone … what happens if your mobile runs out of battery? Can’t pay for anything then.

Don’t complicate this fine idea with practical issues. The obvious solution is to have two iPhones, or BlackBerrys if you prefer. Perhaps make that three, just to be sure.

Pay by phone makes the contactless card look wonderful by comparison.

Neil says:
19 June 2012

I recently received a contactless card from HSBC, after reading around I decided it was not for me and went to the bank to request a non-contactless card. They were happy to oblige and are sending a new card through.
Would seem that they send them out by default but will change on request.
Can’t really say fairer than that.

Phil says:
13 October 2013

Alas, I just tried to as First Direct (part of HSBC) to let me have a non-contactless debit card. They first send a long email extoling the so-called virtues of a contactless card. When I replies and said that despite this I did not want one, Chris Newton in Card Services wrote,

“All new debit cards issued have the contactless facility, we do not have an opt out facility. Non-contactless cards can be issued only in exceptional circumstances.

Please contact us if you require anything further”

I have, of course, replied saying that clearly I am exceptional in not wanting one, and would they please issue one of tehir exceptional circumstances cards. We’ll see if this works.

Steve in Essex says:
13 October 2013

At least with First Direct, when you have a contactless card foisted on you, before it becomes a danger you have to activate it.

Which I haven’t.

So, in theory, there should be no contactless transactions, but any data on the chip is still at risk.

I thought I should give an update on my experience with First Direct. Initially, when I tried to opt out, I was told it couldn’t be done except in ‘exceptional’ circumstances. My response to this was also met with refusal. However, my response to that second message (which stated that this was now a grievance) resulted in a call from a manager who apologised, and within a week I had new cards without the contactless feature. He did warn that when the card was renewed, it might be cntactless again, but that I could contact them at that time and they would. of course, send out noncontactless cards instead.

So I was happy in the end, although it did take me a few hours of my time to sort it out.

Phil says:
3 February 2014

I did get a non-contactless card from First Direct in the end, but only by making the request a ‘complaint’ as teh first line staff couldn’t cope with the request. Keep on insisting – it does work!

David says:
5 February 2015

Just received a new contactless card from first direct, again the operater tried to tell me that they do not issue non contactless cards anymore (same b******t that I got from them two years ago), however if this happens to you, ask to speak to someone higher up the food chain and advise them that if they do not issue you with the card you require that needs a pin number to initiate a transaction (for security!!!) then you WILL take your business to another bank. My new non contactless card is on it’s way!!!! I have been a victim of fraud on two occasions, once when my card was scanned at a local Shell garage, and once following a purchase at a currys store my Barclaycard card was used to enter a higher purchase agreement for over £600 worth of Apple goods. The first I knew about it was when the bank started chasing me for non payment of the HP agreement. Both these problems took many months and much stress to correct, I had done nothing wrong yet was made to prove I was not at fault, my credit rating was also affected as I had seemingly defaulted on an HP payment. How can a card that needs NO form of ID be secure???avoid them like the plague.

Questioning RFID tec says:
20 June 2012

HSBC admits that they do not fully understand the NFC RFID cards and know very little about the Tec, they do not even deny that these cards can lead to id theft without effort, it is not just your cash that is stolen, but also your name and details, it is quite easy to do, simply you can scan the card because the new bank cards transmit Data, your smart phone is capable of receiving this data, all they need is your name, goto the local registry office pay £10 and we can get your date of birth, got your local library you can look up your name in the electoral role, get your address and you can use these details to either commit fraud or access pay websites.

These cards do not prove anything other then the Banks trying to get us into a cash less society.

Do not underestimate cyber crime they are always one step ahead on Tec.

David says:
21 June 2012

I do understand everyone’s concern, and I agree that, in the current implementation, there are problems with contactless technology. There have been several exposés on the news about Android apps that allow someone with an NFC-enabled phone to scan people’s cards without their knowledge. I believe Visa has made a mistake by engineering their cards to transmit not just the card number and expiration date, but also the name of the cardholder. One reporter then went on to use this information to set up a payment card in Amazon, and was able to make purchases, because Amazon does not require the CVV2 security code from the back of the card (which is not transmitted through the contactless transaction). Apparently, they don’t even require the name of the cardholder to match the name on the Amazon account. He was able to make purchasing using this information alone.

Now that I’ve thoroughly scared you, I think it’s important to keep this in perspective. Banks continue to protect customers, as they have always done, by refunding money stolen in fraudulent transactions. This is a proven point, not idle speculation. One should always keep an eye on one’s account for any sort of fraud, and this is certainly not limited to contactless technology. There are many scams involving chip-and-pin readers and cash machines that allow criminals to steal card information and commit fraud. Just because you are unaware of these does not mean they don’t exist. It is very easy to point at a new technology, out of fear and resistance to change, and say that it should be banned. Every new technology experiences growing pains, and this one will be no different. But technology can be fixed, and it always has benefits.

As for the general moaning about a “cash-free” society, may I point out that I just completed my master’s thesis on this very topic. In the course of said thesis, I noted that cash is extremely expensive for society in many ways. It costs billions each year just to maintain the paper and metal, which, as with all physical items, tend to wear out. Transportation costs, ease of theft, inconvenience – these are all downsides to cash. My findings were that, aside from a general wish for privacy, the only real reasons for cash to exist are under-the-table transactions most often associate with crime and tax evasion. Given the general cost of these to society, you can see why governments are quite keen to usher in the cashless economy. You can bet it’s on its way, too, as cash transactions have been on the wane for quite some time. Sure, a few will cling to the past, but they’ll join the revolution sooner or later, just as they did with credit and debit cards, ATMs, etc.

As far as privacy is concerned, the same people bemoaning the banks knowing their purchasing habits are probably only-too-happy to tell Facebook their most intimate details on a daily basis. Personally, I couldn’t care less if my bank knows what brand of toilet paper I purchase. If you’ve ever worked for a bank, you know that customer data is highly protected, and even most employees don’t have access to it. There are government regulations controlling who can see information, what can be done with it, etc. And realistically, how many of you use cash for all, or even most, of your purchases? Every time you use chip-and-pin, you are leaving a data trail. We are already a mostly-cashless society. Most kids (sadly) already have mobile phones, and yes, soon, those will replace our wallets for most purchases. Boot sales will continue, school lunches will be bought, and society will not crumble when cash is eliminated. In 100 years, we will look back and wonder what all the fuss was about.

All that said, I did just receive a contactless business debit card, and I did just call my bank and request that it be reverted to a normal card. I did this because: 1) I never make small purchases with my business card; 2) I am aware of the issues mentioned above with security, and would prefer not to risk my business account; 3) it interferes with my Oyster card, which was a big shock to me this morning.

I admit that the last issue was the most annoying for me. As I said, I know the bank will back me up if there is an issue with fraud, and they will just issue me a new card and refund the losses. (I have had this happen before.) You would think that Visa would pick a different radio frequency for the card/reader, so as not to interfere with Oyster. This is just going to make a lot of Londoners angry, and they will stop using the cards out of frustration. If it doesn’t catch on here, where will it?

Steve in Essex says:
10 April 2013

A late response to this post, but I have just been re-reading the thread.

“Banks continue to protect customers, as they have always done, by refunding money stolen in fraudulent transactions. This is a proven point, not idle speculation.”

But the time and effort getting them to admit that there was a fraudulent transaction that WAS NOT YOUR FAULT will make it almost not worth the effort with the £15 contactless transactions.

” Every new technology experiences growing pains, and this one will be no different. But technology can be fixed, and it always has benefits.”

And that which man can invent, man can circumvent, at least as far as security is concerned. And in this instance, far to easily.

“As for the general moaning about a “cash-free” society, may I point out that I just completed my master’s thesis on this very topic. In the course of said thesis, I noted that cash is extremely expensive for society in many ways. It costs billions each year just to maintain the paper and metal, which, as with all physical items, tend to wear out. Transportation costs, ease of theft, inconvenience – these are all downsides to cash. My findings were that, aside from a general wish for privacy, the only real reasons for cash to exist are under-the-table transactions most often associate with crime and tax evasion.”

I have just paid my window cleaner his £10 note. There are no circumstances under which I can imagine a window cleaner, or similar, carrying round a machine to enable them to accept card transactions.

Another, off the top of my head, reason for using cash, is to ensure that the tip I give goes into the pocket of the person I intend it for, not to the management.

“Sure, a few will cling to the past, but they’ll join the revolution sooner or later, just as they did with credit and debit cards, ATMs, etc.”

Like the demise of cheques.

“We are already a mostly-cashless society.”

You think so?

Have you tried to spend less that £5 or £10, other than by cash?

Have you not been in a bank when a shopkeeper cones in to bank their takings?

Do you not get involved in things like Scouts/Cubs/Guides/Brownies when they arrive with their subs? I have never heard of anybody thinking of doing that sort of transaction in other than cash.

I would suspect that, despite the wishes of the banks and government, cash will be around long after our grandchildren have died of old age.

Leigh says:
10 January 2013

My bank wont allow a contactless card, I got charged by TFL for my trip that my travel pass covered as my wireless card was next to it. I now will keep those cards at home until I find a new bank for my business. I am looking for said banks that will offer the non wireless cards. but I do like the idea of punching a hole in the card too. I think the banks have taken a step too far without really knowing if the customers are happy about using it. TFL have also been thoughtless about people concerns.

Sad Really

Nick says:
1 April 2013

The Co-op bank is forcing these cards on their customers, we queried it with them after doing research online, because we are not happy with either the system or the fact that we had no choice in the matter, we were told that these cards are being issued, and no others are available without the contactless technology.

How’s that for customer care and service.

Gus says:
9 April 2013

I am with the Co-op and have complained to the financial ombudsmen service about this. I don’t like a security vulnerability being added to my card to give me a service that I do not want to use. Yes the bank would refund me in the case of fraud, but the onus is on me to spot and report it.

I’ll probably leave the co-op if they don’t offer me the chance to opt out.