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What you need to know about contactless payments
Make fast and secure tap-and-go payments without entering your PIN when you use payWave and Mastercard contactless.
Tap-and-go payments have become increasingly popular – with their ease and convenience. Now all you need to do is wave your credit and debit cards above a payment terminal and you can make purchases of up to S$200 without the hassle of inserting it or entering your PIN.
This guide helps you compare contactless payment cards, understand how the technology works and learn how to keep your contactless payments secure.
Compare contactless credit cards and debit cards
What is contactless payment?
A contactless payment, commonly referred to as a tap-and-go payment, is a capability incorporated into debit or credit cards that allows you to make in-store purchases faster.
When you make a purchase of up to S$200 at a merchant that has a contactless payment terminal, you just need to hold your card within 4cm of the terminal to approve the purchase without entering your PIN. This is why it’s called a contactless payment, because your credit or debit card doesn’t need to make contact with the terminal for the payment to work.
If the purchase is over $200, you can still make a contactless payment but you’ll need to enter your PIN. Do note that some cards or payment networks only allow contactless payments without PIN verification for transactions up to S$100, so be sure to check directly with your bank if you’re unsure.
How does contactless technology work?
Credit cards, debit cards and other devices including smartphones now utilise Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to make secure, contactless payments. The small embedded chip in the debit or credit card emits short-range radio waves and communicates with the chip in the payment reader, which then authorises and process the transaction from a few centimetres away.
Simply wave your contactless card or smartphone device over a contactless-enabled POS terminal to complete the payment, without having to swipe or insert the card into the terminal.
What contactless payment systems are available in Singapore?
Payment processing networks (e.g. Mastercard and Visa) brand their contactless feature differently, but they all work with the same technology. These are also referred to as simply “tap-and-go” rather than their correct brand names.
Here are some of the most common contactless payment methods in Singapore:
- Mastercard contactless (formerly known as Mastercard PayPass)
- Visa payWave
- American Express contactless
- NETS contactless
How do I set up or activate the contactless payment feature?
All new bank cards come automatically equipped with contactless payment technology. Just activate it and you’re ready to go.
For most credit or debit cards, it’ll be either Visa payWave and Mastercard contactless. It’ll also clearly display the contactless logo:
If you have an older card that doesn’t already come equipped with tap-and-go functionality, you can simply contact your bank and request a new debit or credit card be sent to you.
Is there a difference between contactless payments on my credit or debit card?
If your contactless card is a debit card, all your payments will be drawn from your transaction or savings account (via the credit card system). If your contactless card is a credit card, transactions will always be drawn from your credit card account.
How do I make a contactless tap-and-go payment?
The beauty of making a contactless payment is that it’s super fast and really easy to do.
- Make sure the payment is less than S$200 (do note that some cards only allow payments up to $100), and check that the merchant accepts contactless payments.
- When the merchant asks how you’d like to pay, let them know you’d like to tap and go.
- Confirm the transaction amount is correct (you should do this regardless of how you’re paying).
- All you need to do is hold your card above the terminal and wait until you see it’s been approved. Done!
Where can I use my card to make contactless payments?
You can make tap-and-go payments at any contactless-enabled POS terminal. These days they are available in most places in Singapore including at supermarkets, department stores, petrol stations, cafes and public transport top-up machines.
Look out for the contactless payment symbol on the payment terminal.
The pros and cons of tap-and-go payments
- Convenient. Just tap your debit or credit card. No need to enter a PIN or sign a receipt on transactions under S$200. If most people start using contactless cards, it can also lead to quicker transactions and shorter queues.
- Safe. No typing errors, such as incorrectly keying your PIN or accidentally pressing cancel.
- Secure. Backed up by the guarantees offered by the cards and the latest security technology.
- Misuse. Since the card doesn’t require a PIN or a signature for payments of up to S$200, 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 extremely popular in Singapore, some merchants may not have a contactless terminal.
- S$200 limit. While the S$200 limit is in place for your security, you’ll need to enter your PIN for any purchases larger than this amount.
Are contactless 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 Singapore banks, contactless payments are in some ways even more secure than classic debit or credit cards.
- 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.
- S$200 purchase limit. Even if your card is compromised, there is a S$200 per transaction maximum in Singapore for tap-and-go payments. This means you’ll have to enter your PIN or sign as usual for larger transactions, 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 locally issued cards, within reason.
What’s my contactless payment limit?
With contactless payment, you can make purchases of up to S$200 without entering your PIN. If the purchase is over S$200, you can still make a contactless payment but you’ll need to enter your PIN.
However, some cards or payment processing networks only allow payments up to S$100, so be sure to check with your card issuer if you’re unsure.
Are there any hidden charges?
Waving the card next to a terminal instead of inserting generally won’t cost you anything extra. However, that’s only what you see as a customer. On the other end, choosing to tap-and-go can result in different costs for the retailer.
If you’re making a purchase with a debit card – inserting, pressing “Savings” and then putting in your PIN – the payment will be processed through an EFTPOS system. However, if you’re using payWave or Mastercard Contactless, the payment will often be processed through a different system – the credit card networks owned by Visa or Mastercard.
The service is free for consumers at most retail points. However, taxi fares paid with a credit card will attract a 10% surcharge. For merchants accepting Visa and Mastercard payments, as well as mobile wallets such as Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay, a 3 % transaction fee is imposed.
How long does it take for a contactless payment to reflect on my account?
Contactless payment transactions are usually processed within 3 to 5 business days, but it can take longer. While the transaction is pending, the purchase may be deducted from your available funds.
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