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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?

Neil says:
10 April 2013

UPDATE : I handed my contactless card back to HSBC last June (see my comment earlier further up the page), my wife has just received a contactless one through the post and HSBC are happy to replace it with a non-contactless one again.

So HSBC are still sending them out by default but don’t ‘force’ them on you … are the other banks still doing the same? I read above that the Co-op say you have to have contactless, which I find poor.

Since sending back my card in June last year I haven’t once thought, “would be handy to have a contactless card here” – in fact I have only seen the contactless sign in one shop, so not even sure the south-west businesses have embraced it. The pace of life in this lovely part of the country is a little more relaxed than the south-east. Time is not considered wasted here when engaging with others, even if they are behind a till. 😎 They even, occasionally, make eye-contact on the trains! … and smile at strangers!!

Questioning RFID tec says:
10 April 2013

Halifax does not issue the RFID cards unless requested.

Questioning RFID tec says:
10 April 2013

Halifax does not issue the RFID cards unless requested.

J Preece says:
19 May 2013

After hearing about a lady who had money taken from one of these cards without her knowledge, I decided to check my Smile card. It has the wave symbol which I did not even notice as there was nothing that came with the card saying that it was a new type. I have also read about thieves being able to scan these cards from a distance with a mobile phone app. I have no intention of using this technology but was not given any choice. If my bank does not give me a choice then I will probably change banks.

J of London says:
3 June 2013

I asked HSBC to send me a debit card without the contactless ‘feature’. They agreed immediately. Very straightforward. However Barclaycard refused explaining there is no alternative but to have it and even though I had been a customer for 29 years so I cancelled the card. This is not just about the risk of losing £20 but also my personal details which are worth rather more. I felt Barclaycard did not listen to my concerns and instead tried to sell me some kind of improved credit card deal to try to stop me cancelling. They don’t take their customers seriously or at least not ones like me.

Andy says:
30 May 2013

For reference, I had to opt-in with Lloyds TSB for them to send me a contactless card. I though I would be automatically upgraded when my old card expire last year but I wasn’t.

I have however experienced issues with TfL and it appears that my VISA contactless interferes with my Oyster card. As per comments above I have to removed my Oyster and tap it separately whereas before I could just hold my wallet to the reader.

As a PAYG oyster user this wont be a problem when they roll out contactless card integration to the rest of the network (currently just buses), then I won’t have a use for my Oyster at all. I can only assume that TfL will eventually want to associate me and my bank card with my oyster account so that I can buy travel cards and not be charged every time. This is part of TfL reducing the cost of the payment/ticketing system that costs them millions of pounds a year to operate.

Perhaps if the banks offered a separate contactless payment card, some of us may be persuaded to try out the technology and if we found it more useful than carrying around cash, we would adopt the technology. We should be able to top up the card from our main account in the same way we top up our mobile phones.

Using a mobile app for payment may be problematic if the signal is poor or the network goes down. Not able to buy your train ticket because of a poor signal. If you rely totally on technology for funds, what happens if your bank has IT problems,

Richard says:
6 June 2013

In case anyone wants to disble the contactless technology in their card.


Rural voter says:
8 June 2013

The Co-op Bank have refused my complaint once. I shall now ask them to disable the contactless function in my replacement VISA card in October 2013. If they decline even this, I shall tell them that in any case of fraud I shall claim punitive damages in the county court plus the value of my time spent putting the mess right since this is entirely a mess of their own making. It reverses the major progress we made with CHIP and PIN, which made consumers more secure than we were before.

I used to think the Co-op Bank was far better than HSBC, Lloyds, etc. I am now not so sure.

Jon says:
18 June 2013

As far as I am concerned, contactless is an idiotic idea – a solution looking for a problem. I cancelled my Barclaycard ages ago because it seems that you cannot have one without.

Thus, I was horrified to notice just recently that my Barclays debit card also has contactless on it and I have had it for over a year.

It’s been like pulling teeth, but I have finally found out that Barclays do a card called Debit Electronic which is exactly like the standard debit card except that it is not a cheque guarantee card (who cares?) and it is not contactless. Having checked that this card is not anything like the old “Electon” card which was just for kids, I am now going about changing over.

I recommend any other Barclays customers who are similarly dismayed by contactless to do the same.

There are so many things about this that irritate me: First, why not ask people if they want contactless – if they do, fine, it’s up to them, but don’t just do it automatically. Secondly, the advertising about these cards was very unclear. I normally ignore all adverts anyway, but I do remember these adverts and having no idea what they meant. But most of all, why make the debit electronic card so invisible on the web site?

I think Barclays marketing really are losing the plot.

John H says:
1 September 2013

Thanks for that!
Just phoned Barclays helpline .They say if I go into my branch they can re-issue all our debit and credit cards without the feature -let’s hope it’s that simple.
Why are the banks so keen on it? to suit customers needs? or to take pressure off their servers and save them money? – the latter, I suspect.

I have been having a email conversation with the Coop bank they issued me with a contact less card which I don’t want or request. They have stated that I will NOT have choice and that I must have this highly suspect method of payment
So far I have only found the Nationwide to offer a non contact less card but they don’t Know if this will change

This is a update on my issue with the Coop bank. I started off with the CEO and worked my way down. In short the Coop will not give their customers a choice to have the contactless card
So as I told the Coop as and when they issue me with the card I shall be closing the account as and when
The Nationwide B/S dont have any plans to introduce the service

Jim McDonald says:
29 July 2014

Just had a conversation with the Nationwide today and I was told that they are introducing them as well with no option.
It would seem that all the banks are going to follow suit.

Whats going on here?

Richard says:
1 July 2013

I have just had the same conversation with the Co-Operative Bank who told me I must accept a contactless card. I refused and told them instead to close the account.

I subsequently carefully read their ‘Consumer Credit Card agreement, effective April 2013, which I received accompanying said new credit card, and despite the use of a magnifying glass, I can find no reference to contactless cards, or to any contractual basis on which I may be forced to accept one.

I therefore wonder whether by sending one out, unsolicited, and in the absence of any contractual condition, the Co-Op Bank may be in breach of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, a matter which I believe is worthy of bringing to the attention of the Financial Services Authority.

mumble says:
17 July 2013

Very appropriate acronym for this sort of technology – No F*^£ing Clue (a comment on the card mfrs knowledge of security – cf Chip & Pin).
It should simply be an option with those not wishing/needing it able to not waste time checking statements and chasing banks to get their money back

Mark says:
6 October 2013

If your details are skimmed, they can be saved to a database and along with thousands of others, used to withdraw your cash at a later date, multiple times and from anywhere in the world, thus making the possession of them, valuable to anyone looking to sell them on. You would likely not know if your details had been skimmed in the first place, nor would you be aware of your losses until it was too late, and having your money returned to you by the bank does not change the fact that your banking details are still in the possession of criminals and will remain so, and just how many times do you think your bank will make your losses good ? I’d rather lose a ten pound note than my bank details any day !

Gerry says:
3 November 2013

If your bank insists that you have a contactless card, just use an ordinary A4 paper punch to make a hole in the card, on its ‘equator’ just above the last digit of the long number.

If you look closely, you should be able to see the four severed aerial wires on each side of the hole.

The card’s Chip & (S)pin functionality won’t be affected.

Simples !

Would be better to send a message Gerry by insisting on a normal, more secure card, then notifying the bank that you’ll be closing your account. If you have debts with the bank, do what sneaky banks and other sneaky companies do – make them enter into a contract without wanting to by putting something like this in the letter “In order to prevent closure of my account, send an ordinary, secure, non-contactless card to my address. Failing to do so will be taken as consent to my debts and all associated interest being suspended on my account until such time as you agree to provide a secure method of accessing my money and I reopen my account. If you do not send the required card in 14 days, it will be taken as consent to the closure of my account with all debts suspended.”. Then give them a bit longer than 14 days and close your account. I don’t know if it will stand up in court but it will at least annoy them like they’ve decided to annoy customers.

Gerry says:
21 December 2013

Quite apart from the risk of hacking, even if the technology is unbreakable these cards are undesirable because no PIN is needed to make a purchase. Therefore if a contactless card is stolen, the account holder is much more likely to lose money compared to a traditional card where a PIN or signature is required at the point of sale.

By definition, the so-called convenience of a PIN-less transaction makes it insecure. Even if the bank refunds the loss, the onus is still on the cardholder to spot any illegal transactions. It also means that honest customers will be subsidising the banks’ losses because the general level of charges and fees will have to be higher than they would be otherwise.

Another problem is that a card doesn’t have to be stolen for the cardholder to lose money. If a card is handed over, a dishonest employee may be able to make fraudulent transactions to offset the theft of cash from the till; the cardholder is less likely to notice because the card has been returned.

Similarly, in an environment without physical security (such as an office, a hospital ward, sheltered housing or a care home) it’s quite possible that a lightfingered person could ‘borrow’ a card, make a few contactless purchases and then return it. As always, it’s the most vulnerable people who will be at greatest risk.

For info, Lloyds will happily change contactless debit cards for traditional ones, but Citibank cards need the hole punch treatment or the account to be closed: they arrogantly insist that their policy is Take It Or Leave It.

More of our freedom being chipped away? Eventually the banks will force us to use nothing but cards and cash will be removed altogether, control. over our lives is being imposed in so many ways without any alternative choices. Those of us who do not want one of these cards should be permitted to opt out without question.
I have a reasonable sum of money in a Barclays savings account and today received a new debit card which is contactless. I called Barclays to request a card which was not contactless and was told that this was not possible.
I will be removing my savings from Barclays and placing them with a provider that respects customer choice.

Martin Costello says:
3 February 2014

I have spent some time attempting to have my CapitalOne credit cards reissued as non “contactless”.
The only reason that banks and card companies are forcing this issue is because it has been shown that the cardholders have spent around 25% more per month on their credit cards because of the “convenience”.
In simple terms these cards are not secure because anyone who comes into possession of a “contactless card is free to use it, every pickpocket will be warming up their fingers in anticipation.

I didn’t want a contactless card but was issued one by rbs, I have now been sent a new card that they associate with a lesser account, you cant use the card at petrol stations airports etc,
over 40 years of rbs banking
Im now treated like a second class citizen.
I didn’t want a new card the old one worked fine
cheers rbs
You suck

Graham says:
19 April 2014

Just received a new contactless debit card for my current account from Lloyds Bank. Geared myself up to do battle with customer services and was pleasantly surprised that they could immediately opt me out of contactless. No argument, no quibble, new card will come in 5 working days. Good to know that one of the big four is taking customer wishes seriously.

Steve in Essex says:
19 April 2014

Graham, I hope that Lloyds are better at that than NatWest.
They said they would send us replacement Dr cards that were free of Contactless, but just sent us another set of Contactless ones.
One good thing is that the first time you use their Contactless you have to enter your PIN, which neither of us will do as we only use the Dr cards for withdrawing cash, never for paying in a shop.

Gerry says:
19 April 2014

Steve, I fear that you are mistaken.

Use of your PIN in an ATM when you first withdraw cash with your new card will confirm that it has been received by the authorised user, automatically enabling the contactless feature.

Even if you have never used your PIN, it could still give you problems if you use the Underground or National Rail in the London area. If your contactless card is close to your Oyster card, you may be charged the maximum fare if Card Clash occurs when you touch out. It’s all too easy to overlook that this has happened if there are no gates at your exit station, or if they have been left open.

INSIST on a non-contactless card or, if all else fails, punch a hole in it as I described in my post on 3 Nov 2013.

Steve in Essex says:
19 April 2014

The NatWest bumph says that first you have to do a normal PIN transaction and that the first time you want to use it contactless, you have to use the PIN then as well. And that there will be random instances when the PIN will be required.

I have no Oyster card, so that won’t be a problem. When I go into London I use one of those strange things called a ticket ;-))

What I have done is to open the lining of my wallet and the lassies’ purse and insert tin foil and then stitched them up again. As far as I can tell, that blocks the RFID chip. Though round here there is only the one shop with contactless – as far as I am aware – and I don’t use it.

Gerry says:
19 April 2014

The NatWest website states “When you make your first contactless transaction you MAY be asked to validate your card by entering your PIN.”

I’d bet that your ATM usage will already validated it. Try it at your local friendly contactless shop: if it works without asking for a PIN, you know you’re at risk.

Forget the tin foil – that won’t help you when you lose your wallet or have it stolen. Insist on a plain vanilla card or punch a hole in it !

Steve in Essex says:
19 April 2014

“The NatWest website states “When you make your first contactless transaction you MAY be asked to validate your card by entering your PIN.””

The paperwork that came with the cards, that I have retained, phrases it as I said in my previous.

Graham says:
25 April 2014

My new non-contactless Lloyds debit card arrived today.

Vicky says:
20 October 2014

My husband and I requested non-contactless cards from RBS and they issued them without a quibble. However, Metro Bank said our cards had to be contactless but they gave me a little foil wallet thing to put them in. I guess they must be aware of the risks.

What I don’t understand is, why are the cards called contactless when you have to make contact with a reader to pay‽

Gerry says:
20 October 2014

They are called contactless because in this mode the chip does not need to make electrical contact with the card reader.

Your foil wallet won’t stop someone borrowing or stealing your card and using it to make fraudulent purchases. Similarly, it won’t stop ‘card clash’ with your Oystercard, so you could end up incurring DOUBLE penalty fares on just one journey !

Just send the card back and tell MetroBank that you’ll close the account if they won’t provide a non-contactless version. There’s not much point in staying with MetroBank since they stopped providing fee-free worldwide ATM usage with their debit cards.

However, if you really want to stay with them, just punch a hole immediately above the last digit of the long card number. That will remove the contactless facility but still the leave magnetic stripe and the Chip & Spin facility intact.

Vicky says:
20 October 2014

Thanks, Gerry, for the ‘contactless’ explanation. I’m tempted to send the card back but since I only use it for fee-free transactions in Europe I’ll keep it, but I will punch a hole in it.

Gerry says:
20 October 2014

An ordinary A4 hole punch works a treat.

If you look very closely, you should be able to see the four copper aerial wires that have been severed.