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Contactless payments: for purchases of thirty pounds and under

Last Edit: 26/11/18

Contactless payments are generally made with a contactless card -- typically a credit card or debit card -- and speed up the process of making payments because no PIN number or signature is needed to authorise the payment. In 2007, Barclaycard were the first company to introduce contactless cards in the UK, but it was only by 2014-2017 that the technology had achieved widespread adoption. Until 2015, the contactless payment limit was £20, but the UK Cards Association (trade body for credit and debit card providers) announced, on the 1st of September 2015, that the payment limit had been increased to £30 -- this limit has not been increased further, and was increased to cover small supermarket 'shops'. In 2017, the BBC reported that one third of all payments -- made in the UK -- are now contactless payments, and there is currently over 150,000 contactless terminals in the UK.

Contactless payments have come under scrutiny for their security and glitches: in 2018 Lloyds Bank customers were affected by a glitch that charged them twice for the same payment, and consumer watchdog Which? has continued to question the security of the technology. When referring to the security of contactless payments, and a specific case of fraud involving the technology, Andrew Bailey, chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority said: "The overall risk is low, but we have been urgently working with card schemes and banks to ensure this issue is fixed." Card providers, such as Capital One, do highlight that contactless payments are covered for fraud, stating on their UK website in 2018: "You're covered for any fraud on your account, just like Chip & PIN payments, as long as you tell us as soon as possible if you lose your card or if there are any purchases that you don't recognise." Some banks and credit card providers (for example: First Direct and HSBC) currently allow their customers to opt-out of having a contactless card -- if they are worried about the technologies security -- but whether this will option will offered (after 2018) is questionable; if contactless payments become the norm.

The process for making a contactless payment
(Pictured: the process of making a contactless payment)

Contactless card logo
(Pictured: Contactless card logo)

Banks and providers of contactless cards typically display the 'look touch confirm' picture (shown above) on their website. Its a simple way of explaining how to make a contactless payment: a) look for the contactless logo; b) touch the contactless card against the contactless reader / terminal; c) a green light or beep will confirm the payment has been authorised. Not all retailers accept contactless payments -- those who do will typically display the contactless logo shown above -- but it has been adopted by most chain stores, cafes, pubs, and restaurant. Companies who currently accept contactless payments (from either: MasterCard, Visa or American Express contactless cards) include: McDonald's, Pret a Manger, KFC, Subway, Marks & Spencer, Burger King, Boots, Waitrose, Heron Foods, Debenhams, John Lewis, Stagecoach, AMT Coffee, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, Asda, Morrisons and Lidl.

In conclusion, with the Trade association UK Finance announcing (2017) that over a third of all payments in the UK are now contactless payments, it would appear that contactless cards/payments is a technology that is here to stay; regardless of the security concerns. Most large chain stores and food outlets accept it and independent stores will most likely adopt it.