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Contactless payments in Ireland

What you need to know about tapping and paying in Ireland.

To make a contactless payment in Ireland, all you need to do is wave your debit or credit card above a card machine and you can make purchases of up to €50 without inserting your card or entering your PIN. This guide helps you compare cards with contactless functionality, understand how the technology works and learn how to keep your contactless payments secure.

What is a contactless payment?

A contactless payment, sometimes referred to as a tap-and-go payment, is a feature incorporated into debit or credit cards that allows you to make in-store purchases faster. When you make a purchase of up to €50 at a retailer that has a card machine, you just need to hold your card close to the reader on the machine for a few seconds. The machine should then beep to signal that the payment has been accepted. This is why it’s called a contactless payment, because your card doesn’t need to make contact with the machine for the payment to work and you don’t need to enter your PIN.

Which banks offer contactless payments?

Most debit and credit cards in Ireland give you the option of making contactless payments. This includes Mastercard and Visa credit cards from all the major banks and providers, including the institutions below:

There are also plenty of credit cards that offer contactless mobile payments with Apple Pay and Google Pay.

Compare current accounts in Ireland

See the breakdown of contactless payments offered by each provider.

Name Product Maintenance fee Fee period ATM transaction fee
VIALET Current Account
0 €
Monthly
€2 + 2% per withdrawal
An IBAN account you can use to manage your money and spend in over 200 countries worldwide, fee-free.
N26 Bank Account
0 €
Monthly
€2 per withdrawal
Benefit from no monthly fee, no currency conversion fees and a raft of in-app budgeting features to help you save.
Wirex Standard
0 €
Monthly
2% per withdrawal

Get a Welcome Bonus of $15 USD in WXT when you sign up with Wirex through Finder.

Benefit from an array of digital payment features, including a free prepaid Wirex card and unlimited fee-free transfers at interbank rates - with zero monthly subscription fee.
Wise Multicurrency Account
0 €
Monthly
€0.50 + 1.75% per withdrawal
Wise (formerly TransferWise) is an international account with over 50 currencies, instant and very convenient money transfers, a card to spend in any currency, bank details to be paid in 30 different countries and multi-currency direct debits.
Revolut Standard
0 €
Monthly
€1 + 2% per withdrawal
Enjoy no monthly fee, no currency conversion fees up to €1,000 per month and hold an array of currencies in your account.
AIB Student Account for 2nd Level Students
0 €
Monthly
€0
A current account for students aged between 12 and 18 years, who are in part time or full-time second level education. If you apply for a debit card, AIB will cover the annual Government Stamp Duty.
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Compare up to 4 providers

How does tap and go technology work?

Credit cards, debit cards and other devices including smartphones use Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to make secure, contactless payments. The chip in the debit or credit card communicates with the card machine through radio signals to authorise and process the transaction from a few centimetres away.

The embedded chip allows you to wave your card or smartphone device over a contactless card machine without having to insert the card into the machine and enter your PIN.

In some instances and after using the contactless method to make several purchases, you may be asked to enter your PIN as an added security measure.

Is there a contactless payment limit in Ireland?

With your debit or credit card, you’ll be able to make purchases of up to €50 without entering your PIN.

It’s come a long way since being introduced in Ireland when contactless payments were limited to purchases up to €15. It was later increased to €30 in 2015 and raised again to its current limit of €50 in April 2020.

Is there a difference between contactless payments on my credit or debit card?

There’s no physical difference to you when actually making the contactless payment. However, if you pay with your debit card, your payment will be drawn from your current account. If you pay using your credit card, transactions will always be drawn from your credit card account.

How do I make a contactless payment in Ireland?

The beauty of making a contactless payment is that it’s super fast and really easy to do.

  • Step 1. Check that the merchant accepts contactless payments.
  • Step 2. When the merchant asks how you’d like to pay, let them know you’d like to make a contactless payment.
  • Step 3. Confirm the transaction amount is correct (you should do this regardless of how you’re paying).
  • Step 4. If the payment is less than €50, all you need to do is hold your card above the card machine and wait until you see it’s been approved or hear a beep. Done! (For payments over €50, you’ll have to insert your card into the machine and then enter your PIN).

Where can I use my card to make contactless payments?

These days, contactless payments are accepted in most major retailers in Ireland including at supermarkets, department stores, petrol stations and restaurants and cafes. Look for the contactless payment symbol on the card machine.

Every day during August 2020, no less than two million contactless payments were made totalling nearly €990 million, according to the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland.

Are tap and go payments safe?

There are a lot of measures in place to ensure you don’t accidentally make a payment without meaning to, or that someone can’t hijack the signal to rob you. Thanks to these and additional safeguards put in place by Visa, Mastercard and banks in Ireland, contactless payments are in some ways even more secure than classic debit or credit card payments.

  • You don’t have to hand your card over. Your debit card won’t leave your hands, reducing the risk of someone skimming your card or copying the card details.
  • Unique transaction codes. When you make a payment, the transaction will be assigned a unique number that isn’t specific to your device. This prevents you from accidentally being billed twice, and makes sure all payments are clearly tracked.
  • €50 purchase limit. Even if your card is compromised, there is a €50 per transaction maximum in Ireland for contactless payments. This means you’ll have to enter your PIN or sign as usual for transactions over €50, but it also means people can’t steal as much if they do manage to get their hands on your card.
  • Built-in encryption. All cards can naturally be read by certain devices, and just like updating your software, there are security benefits to going for the newest cards available.

Additionally, you’re protected by Visa and Mastercard’s zero liability policies. These state that you will not be held liable for fraudulent or unauthorised transactions made on your Irish issued cards, within reason.

How long does it take for a contactless payment to come out of my account?

Contactless payment transactions are usually processed within 3-5 business days, but it can take longer. While the transaction is pending, the purchase may be deducted from your available funds.

The pros and cons of contactless payments

Pros

  • Convenient. Just tap your debit or credit card. No need to enter a PIN or sign a receipt on transactions under €50. If most people start using contactless cards, it can also lead to quicker transactions and shorter queues.
  • Safe. No typing errors, such as keying in your PIN incorrectly or accidentally pressing cancel.
  • Secure. Backed up by the guarantees offered by the cards and the latest security technology.

Cons

  • Misuse. Since the card doesn’t require a PIN or a signature for payments of up to €50, you cannot rule out its misuse completely. This can happen if you don’t realise you’ve lost your card quickly enough, or even if someone you know decides to use your card without your knowledge.
  • Acceptance. While contactless payments are growing in popularity in Ireland and are accepted by most major retailers, smaller shops or businesses may not offer contactless payments.
  • €50 limit. While the €50 limit is in place for your security, you’ll need to enter your PIN for any purchases larger than this amount. Unless of course, you decide to use your smartphone.

What if I want to make a contactless payment over €50?

You won’t be able to make a contactless payment using your debit or credit card to for purchases over €50. You’ll either need to pay using your debit or credit card’s traditional chip and PIN system or pay using your smartphone.

Using a smartphone to make a contactless payment

If you head out the door with just your phone, you’ll still be able to make purchases without having your debit or credit card with you. A digital wallet such as Google Pay and Apple Pay. These digital wallets can store your card details and be used in place of your card. As long as you have an eligible device and debit card you just need to download the app and add your card details.

And unlike you won’t have to worry about transaction limits when using your smartphone.

Bottom line

Contactless payments are ideal for making small purchases up to €50. And with most major retailers in Ireland accepting this type of payment method, you shouldn’t run into any problems. If however, your payment is over €50, you’ll need to use the traditional chip and PIN method or turn to your smartphone and pay using a digital wallet such as Google Pay or Apple Pay.

If you’re looking to make contactless payments using your smartphone instead of your debit or credit card, read our guides on Google Pay and Apple Pay to find out more.

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