Contactless payment

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EMV contactless symbol used on compatible payment terminals
A contactless enabled American Express charge card issued in the UK

Contactless payment systems are credit cards and debit cards, key fobs, smart cards or other devices, including smartphones and other mobile devices, that use radio-frequency identification (RFID) or near field communication (NFC) for making secure payments. The embedded chip and antenna enable consumers to wave their card, fob, or handheld device over a reader at the point of sale terminal.

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 verification is typically required, contactless purchases are typically limited. Those unauthorized may still take advantage of contactless payment systems as no identification occurs before payment except for certain devices, such as when using mobile payments. However, owners can block transactions, and that may provide a relatively short time frame, if any, for fraudulent activities to occur.

Research indicates that consumers are likely to spend more money using their cards due to the ease of small transactions.[1] MasterCard Canada says it has seen "about 25 percent" higher spending by users of its PayPass-brand RFID credit cards.[2]


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[3] and McDonald's[4]

McDonald's, KFC, Burger King, Boots, Eat, Heron Foods, Pret a Manger, Stagecoach Group, Subway, AMT Coffee, Sainsbury's Tesco, Asda 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.[5]

Major financial entities now offering contactless payment systems include MasterCard, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, American Express, KeyBank, Barclays, Barclaycard, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Freedompay, The Co-operative Bank, Nationwide Building Society and The Royal Bank of Scotland Group. Visa payWave, American Express ExpressPay, and MasterCard PayPass are examples of contactless credit cards which have become widespread in U.S. and UK. The UK (and the rest of the world) version of the contactless applications differ from the U.S. 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 December 2014, there are approximately 58 million contactless-enabled cards in circulation in the UK and over 147,000 terminals in use though this is growing in numbers and percentages of adoption.[6][7]

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.[8]

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 (now renamed Android Pay as of 2015) is an application for devices running Google's Android OS, which allows users to make purchases using NFC, which initially required a physical secure element but this was replaced by host card emulation which was introduced in Android 4.4 (KitKat). Softcard (formerly known as Isis mobile wallet), 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.[9]

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.[10]


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. Depending on the economic space, there may be a payment limit on single transactions, and some contactless cards can only be used a certain number of times before customers are asked for their PIN.[11] Contactless debit and credit transactions are protected by the same fraud guarantee as standard transactions. In order to check that a contactless card has been delivered to the authorised card holder, the contactless part of the card will not function until a standard chip and PIN transaction has been executed.

Under fraud guarantee standards U.S. banks are liable for any fraudulent transactions charged to the contactless cards. There have been concerns about identity theft, but to mitigate this concern, the major network guidelines do not allow a contactless card to contain the cardholder's actual name; instead, a placeholder name is used.


Because no signature or PIN verification is typically required, contactless purchases are typically limited to a set amount per transaction.

Economic space Limit Comment
Australia A$100
Canada CA$100
Croatia[12] No limit For transactions over 100HRK PIN or signature are needed.
Czech Republic No limit For transactions over 500 CZK PIN is needed. For every 3 consecutive contactless transactions PIN is needed.
Denmark[13] No limit For transactions over 200DKK PIN is needed. Sometimes PIN is needed anyway to ensure the card is used by its owner.
Eurozone €25 In general[citation needed]
Finland €25
France €20
Hong Kong HKD $500 Some merchants can accept contactless payment if the transaction amount is under HKD $1000
Hungary 5000 HUF
Ireland €30 Previously €15 until 1 October 2015.
Macedonia, Republic of 750 MKD
Malaysia RM 250 Roughly 57 USD/ 37.50 GBP. After RM 250 a signature is required.
Netherlands[14] €25 For more than €25 at once or €50 in one day PIN verification is mandatory.
New Zealand NZ$80
Norway 200 NOK
Poland No limit For transactions over or equal to 50 PLN PIN is required.
Slovakia No limit For transactions over €20 PIN is needed. For every 3 consecutive contactless transactions PIN is needed.
Spain No limit For more than €20 PIN verification is mandatory
Switzerland 40 CHF
Thailand ฿1500
United Kingdom £30 £20 until 1 September 2015;[15] still £20 limit on some cards.
United States of America US$25

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