Contactless card payments have made it convenient for shoppers to quickly spend small amounts of money in-store without needing to type in a pin or sign their name on a receipt. When contactless first launched in 2007, credit and debit card owners were only able to spend a maximum of £5 – with anything over that amount requiring the more secure chip-and-PIN treatment.
Since then, that contactless limit has slowly crept higher, up to £10, then doubled, before an update in 2020 allowed shoppers to tap and go with purchases up to a maximum price of £45. That may already sound like a large amount of money but it’s nothing when you see what is coming next. From October, you’ll be able to spend £100 via contactless technology. No PIN, no signature… just tap and walk away.
That means anyone with your card can walk into a shop and buy up to £100 worth of products without needing any form of security. When contactless payments first launched, credit and debit card owners were reassured that, should someone steal their card, they would only be able to make smaller payments before you managed to call the bank and block the card. With the limit about to reach £100, the difference of a few hours between realising you don’t have your card and calling the bank to enact the block could be thousands of pounds.
This update is aimed at making things, such as the weekly shop, faster at the checkout with Chancellor Rishi Sunak saying: “Increasing the contactless limit will make it easier than ever to pay safely and securely.”
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However, experts are warning that criminals could take advantage of the new rules and make it even more tempting to steal bank cards. A recent report from UCL’s Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science said: “Debit and credit cards are a high-risk target of acquisitive crimes.
“Raising the contactless card limit to £100 would likely make card theft more attractive, increasing a broad range of acquisitive crimes including snatch theft of wallets and purses, hold-up robberies, and home and vehicle break-ins to find cards that can be used fraudulently.”
With concerns over the £100 limit, some consumers may now be tempted to make the switch to services such as Apple and Google Pay.
Payments via these platforms need to be verified via biometric data such as facial and fingerprint recognition. That means cards can’t be used without the owner being present. When you try and buy something via your iPhone or Android device a message instantly pops up asking for confirmation that it’s really you making the purchase.
On iPhone, this is handled by Apple’s Face ID facial recognition sensor (of Touch ID fingerprint on the iPhone SE), while Android devices require a fingerprint to be checked before any money is removed from an account.
As a result of these extra security precautions, manufacturers like Apple and Google don’t impose a strict limit on the amount of money that can be paid wirelessly. In fact, it’s possible to spend huge sums of money via these services without ever needing to reach for your wallet.
Anyone who feels concerned by the new £100 limit should certainly consider using phone payments as they are far more secure.
Contactless technology has been widely embraced by consumers in recent years, with most shops now offering it as an option. Last year, contactless accounted for 41 percent of all card transactions. Following the lifting of some restrictions, there was a 16 percent increase in the total value of contactless payments in the UK in October, compared with the previous year.
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