Contactless payments can be a simple and convenient way to pay at stores. They can also be helpful if you’d rather limit physical contact with payment terminals or other surfaces. And there’s almost always no need to sign a receipt or input a PIN to authorize a transaction.
Contactless payment is a purchase method that works by holding a debit card, credit card or mobile wallet above a payment terminal. You don’t need to swipe or dip your card — hence “contactless.”
A contactless payment doesn’t require a PIN or signature. However, to combat fraud, issuers or merchants may set a maximum amount per contactless transaction — for example, $30 to $100.
Contactless payments during coronavirus concerns
The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised caution when handling cash, stating that handling money could lead to the transference of germs. Contactless forms of payment can be an alternative to cut down on the transmission of the virus, according to WHO.
If you see a wave symbol on your card, you’re all set to start using contactless payments. When you’re checking out at the store, look to see if contactless payments are allowed with this symbol:
Next, take out your contactless credit or debit card and hold it above the symbol.
Or add your card to a mobile wallet — such as Apple Pay or Google Pay. When you’re ready to check out, hold your mobile wallet above the payment terminal and authorize the transaction with biometric authentication, if needed.
How to get contactless payment
Two main ways to access contactless payments:
Get a credit or debit card that’s equipped with contactless technology.
Add your credit or debit card to a mobile wallet.
For many years, contactless cards were relatively uncommon. But in late 2018 and early 2019, providers began issuing many more cards with contactless technology.
One easy way to tell if a card offers contactless payments is by looking for a wave symbol on the front or back of your card.
Which credit cards have contactless payment?
Chase and American Express offer the most contactless options. Here’s a list of many credit cards that include this technology.
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Chase Freedom Flex℠
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Chase Slate Edge℠ credit card
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
United℠ Explorer Card
United Gateway℠ Card
United MileagePlus® Club card
British Airways Visa Signature® Card
Aer Lingus Visa Signature® Credit Card
Iberia Visa Signature® card
World of Hyatt Credit Card
Starbucks Rewards™ Visa® Card
AARP® Credit Card from Chase
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
American Express® Gold Card
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
Hilton Honors™ Aspire Card
Hilton Honors American Express Card
American Express Cash Magnet® Card
American Express® Business Gold Card
The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card
Amazon Business Prime American Express Card
Amazon Business American Express Card
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Citi Rewards+® Card
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card
Wells Fargo Visa Signature® Card
Wells Fargo Rewards® Card
Wells Fargo Platinum Card
Wells Fargo Cash Back College℠ Card
Wells Fargo Secured Credit Card
Our pick for contactless payment Citi® Double Cash Card
Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% – 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.99% – 23.99% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Types of contactless payments: PayWave, PayPass and Expresspay
Choose from Visa’s PayWave, Mastercard’s PayPass or American Express’s Expresspay to pay for everyday purchases without your physical card touching anything.
Each features NFC technology that makes contactless payment possible. Sometimes called tap-and-go, you can either wave or tap your credit card at contactless terminals without keying in your PIN or signing a receipt.
What are the pros and cons of PayWave, PayPass and Expresspay?
Use your card or phone to “tap and pay” without keying in a PIN or signing a receipt.
Protection against fraudulent transactions provides peace of mind.
Data encryption reduces the threat of hackers scanning cards and stealing valuable information.
Fast connection without worry of incorrectly typing in your PIN.
Retailers no longer have access to your credit card information.
Track and use points or miles for purchases at retailers and sites. Some banks offer additional cash back and perks with this feature.
Convenient and quick checkout payments mean faster transactions.
Technology limited to consumers with smartphones or those with PayWave, PayPass or Expresspay credit cards.
If you lose your credit card, your account could be compromised.
Terminal at risk of spyware or malware attacks, as with any other computer device.
You can’t change or choose the transaction limit enforced by your bank.
Contactless payments via mobile wallets
You might already have access to the largest mobile wallets in the US: Apple Pay,Google Payor Samsung Pay.
Add your credit card information to your mobile wallet, then use it for contactless payments without having to pull out your debit or credit card. And because mobile wallets often come with biometric authentication — think fingerprints and face recognition — it’s more difficult for fraudsters to steal your information.
Examples of mobile wallets
Mobile wallets include:
Mobile wallets are often limited by device. Apple Pay works on Apple products only, for example.
How does contactless payment work?
Contactless payments run on near-field communication — or NFC — technology embedded in mobile devices and credit cards.
NFC is a technology that enables your mobile phone to securely transmit and receive information over a short range of about 4 centimeters. It’s an upgrade of existing radio-frequency identification (RFID), which combines the interface of a smartcard and a reader into a single device.
I’m a small business owner. Should I get a contactless payment system?
Updating your card reader to one that offers contactless payments provides your customers with faster and more convenient card processing.
However, upgrading might require upfront fees and training to get used to the new system. Compare solutions for merchant services and weigh the potential benefits against costs to decide if contactless payments are right for your business.
Australasia divisional president at Mastercard
Former SVP at Mastercard Southern Africa
Here’s what Eddie says about PayPass and contactless payments:
“PayPass is a fast, convenient and safe way to pay for purchases of less than $100 and involves a simple tap of a card against a contactless reader, making it ideal for use when customers would generally use cash.”
“Contactless is the way to make and accept payments — it’s quicker and more convenient for consumers and allows merchants to accept more payments at peak sales times. It helps reduce the delays caused by queuing or searching for change and, with consumers already noticing the benefits, we believe it will be available across a large number of retailers in the next couple of years.”
Contactless payments are a convenient way to pay for purchases by tapping your credit card or waving your phone. Look for banks that work with Apple Pay or Google Pay to find a card with this technology.
Frequently asked questions
Look for a phone number on the back of your credit card.
Yes. When you tap your credit card on a payment terminal, the card transmits a single-use code. Sensitive information like your name, billing information and card security code is not transferred.
One to two inches above the payment terminal. You don’t have to physically tap your card on the terminal.
Eddie Grobler image: nfcworld.com NFC image: nxp.com
Steven Dashiell is a writer at Finder specializing in all things credit cards. With more than 300 articles under his belt, he aims to help readers embrace credit cards and maximize their rewards. Steve is studying to become a Certified Educator in Personal Finance, and is a frequent face on Finder’s YouTube channel, offering the latest in credit card hacks and advice. His expertise has been featured on numerous outlets, including U.S. News & World Report, Time, CBS, Fox Business, Lifehacker, Martha Stewart Living and more.
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