Contactless payment systems are credit cards and debit cards, key fobs, smartcards or other devices that use radio-frequency identification for making secure payments. The embedded chip and antenna enable consumers to wave their card or fob over a reader at the point of sale. Some suppliers claim that transactions can be almost twice as fast as a conventional cash, credit, or debit card purchase. Because no signature or PIN entry is typically required for purchases under US$25 in the US and under £20 (£15 prior to 1 June 2012) in the UK, research indicates that consumers are likely to spend more money due to the ease of small transactions. MasterCard Canada says it has seen "about 25 percent" higher spending by users of its PayPass-brand RFID credit cards.
Mobil was one of the most notable early adopters of this technology, and offered their "Speedpass" contactless payment system for participating Mobil gas stations as early as 1997. Although Mobil has since merged with Exxon, the service is still offered at many of ExxonMobil's stations. Freedompay also had early wins in the contactless space with Bank of America and McDonald's 
McDonald's, Boots, EAT., Heron Foods, Pret a Manger, Stagecoach Group, Subway (restaurant), AMT Coffee and Lidl are among the retailers offering contactless payments to their customers in the UK. In March 2008 EAT. became the first restaurant chain to adopt contactless.
Major financial entities now offering contactless payment systems include MasterCard, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, American Express, KeyBank, The Royal Bank of Scotland Group, Barclays, Barclaycard, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Freedompay and The Co-operative Bank. Visa PayWave, American Express ExpressPay, and MasterCard PayPass are examples of contactless credit cards which have become widespread in US and UK. The UK (and the rest of the world) version of the contactless applications differ from the US one. The UK version has the capability of transacting offline, based on the limit stored in the application.
The first contactless cards in the UK were issued by Barclaycard in 2008. As of May 2013 there are approximately 32.5 million contactless-enabled cards in circulation in the UK and over 147,000 terminals in use .
Telecom operators are starting to get involved in contactless payments via the use of near field communication phones. Belgacom's Pingping - Belgium, for example, has a stored value account and via a partnership with Alcatel-Lucent's touchatag provides contactless payment functionalities. In January 2010, Barclaycard partnered with mobile phone firm Orange, to launch a contactless credit card in the UK. Orange and Barclaycard also announced in 2009 that they will be launching a mobile phone with contactless technology.
In October 2011, the first mobile phones with Mastercard PayPass and/or VISA payWave certification appeared. A PayPass or payWave account can be assigned to the embedded Secure Element and/or SIM card within the phones. Google Wallet uses tablets and handsets with an embedded Secure Element. ISIS, Cityzi and Quick Tap wallets for example, use a secure SIM card to store encrypted personal information. Contactless payments with enabled mobile phones still occur on a small scale, but every month an increasing number of mobile phones are certified.
In February 2014, MasterCard announced that it would partner with Weve, which is a joint venture between EE, Telefónica UK, and Vodafone UK, to focus on mobile payments. The partnership will promote the development of "contactless mobile payment systems" by creating a universal platform in Europe for it.
As with all payment devices, contactless cards have a number of security features. Contactless runs over the same chip and PIN network as normal credit and debit card transactions, there is a payment limit on single transactions and contactless cards can only be used a certain number of times before customers are asked for their PIN. Contactless debit and credit transactions are protected by the same fraud guarantee as standard transactions.
Under fraud guarantee standards US banks claim to be liable for any fraudulent transactions charged to the contactless cards. However, banks are not liable for the identity theft that the RFID card can encourage.
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- "Barclaycard and Orange unveil pay-by-mobile service by Garry White". Daily Telegraph. 2009-03-08. Retrieved 2010-08-06.
- "Certified phones". nfc-phones.org.
- Villarreal, Alexandra. "MasterCard, Weve partner to accelerate contactless payments shift in U.K." Bank Credit News. 2/10/2014. Retrieved 2/10/2014.
- Contactless.info is designed to provide information for UK retailers that have an interest in Contactless card acceptance
- Blog focused on contactless technologies
- New credit cards pose security problem, CBC News
- Chase's "blink" uses RFID