Contactless payments: The pros and cons of tap and pay

To tap or not to tap? That is the question when using contactless payments.

Updated

Contactless payments are a modern way to pay for your everyday purchases with one simple touch. To enjoy this benefit, you need to wave or tap your card, wearable payment device or smartphone in front of a contactless terminal. There’s no requirement to enter your PIN or sign a receipt to authorise a transaction.

Although it may seem like a fairly new technology, it has been used in the UK since 2007. The rising popularity of contactless payments for transactions under £30 means that Brits are moving ever closer to living in a cashless society. It’s estimated that 9 in 10 transactions under £30 made in pubs or restaurants are made via contactless payments technology.

How do contactless payments work?

Contactless payments use Near Field Communication (NFC), which allows two devices to securely transmit and receive information by bringing them within 4cm of each other. It’s an upgrade to the existing radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, which combines the interface of a smartcard and a reader into a single device. As an example, RFID is used by Transport for London’s Oyster Card ticketing system.

If you see the contactless symbol, it means you can make contactless payments of up to £30. All three networks – Mastercard, Visa and American Express – offer contactless payment technology. Sometimes referred to as “tap and pay”, consumers can either wave or tap their credit cards at counters or machines with contactless terminals without entering a PIN or signing a receipt. For larger transactions of over £30, you are usually required to enter your PIN. After you have tapped or waved, wait a few seconds for a green light or “approved” to show up to confirm that the transaction has gone through. You won’t always get a receipt so be sure to ask for one if you require a record of your transaction.

Contactless devices include:

  • Debit, credit or pre-paid cards
  • Mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets (which use mobile payment systems such as Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay)
  • Wearable devices, such as watches and wristbands
  • Key fobs
  • Stickers

It’s worth noting that mobile payment devices usually don’t have a payment limit because they require an extra level of identification, such as a PIN, face scan or fingerprint.

What are the pros and cons of contactless payments?

Pros

  • Convenient. You just need to tap your card or mobile phone and you don’t need to enter a PIN or sign a receipt. This saves you time and doesn’t cost you any extra money.
  • Peace of mind. You’re protected against fraudulent transactions, and retailers no longer have access to your credit card information.
  • Reduces the threat of hackers. Hackers are usually able to scan your card to steal valuable information, but NFC technology uses data encryption when sending sensitive information.
  • No typing errors. You don’t have to worry about incorrectly typing in your PIN, and the connection is quicker on contactless terminals.
  • Easy to use overseas. You can use contactless payments abroad if the retailer offers it, although the spending limit may vary depending on the local currency. Be aware: foreign transaction fees could still apply.
  • Shorter queues. Convenient and quick payments mean fewer queues at the checkout.

Cons

  • Some risk. If you lose your credit card, your account may be compromised.
  • Easy to lose track of spending. It’s easy to spend money when all you have to do is tap, and you don’t always receive a receipt. Make sure to regularly check your bank statement for potential errors or fraudulent transactions.
  • Risk of spyware or malware attacks and other viruses. Like any computer device, the payments terminal is at risk of viruses.
  • The limit is set. You can’t change or choose the maximum spending limit. This is chosen by your bank.
  • Confusing bank statements. Some retailers may use a different trading name so transactions could look confusing when they come up on your bank statement.
  • Consider your credit rating. If you’ve got a poor credit rating, your provider may not offer you a contactless card.

contactless card payment in cafe Shutterstrock

Compare cards by type

Comparison is ordered by representative APR with affiliated products shown first.
Data indicated here is updated daily
Name Product Balance transfers Balance transfer fee Purchases Annual/monthly fees Rep. APR Incentive Link
The NatWest Balance Transfer Credit Card (eligibility criteria apply)
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.9%.
0%
Transfers must be made within 3 months of account opening
0% for 3 months reverting to 19.9% p.a. (variable)
£0
19.9% (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable), your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
The Royal Bank Balance Transfer Credit Card (eligibility criteria apply)
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.9%
0%
Transfers must be made within 3 months of account opening
0% for 3 months reverting to 19.9% p.a. (variable)
£0
19.9% (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable), your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
M&S Bank Shopping Plus Mastercard
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.9%
2.9% (min. £5)
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.9%
£0
19.9% (variable)
Earn 1 point for every £1 spent at Marks and Spencer's and 1 point for every £5 spent elsewhere. 100 points = £1 reward voucher. Points will be converted into reward vouchers 4 times a year.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
HSBC Purchase Plus Credit Card Visa
0% for 18 months reverting to 22.9%
2.9% (min. £5) for transfers in first 60 days
0% for 18 months reverting to 22.9%
£0
22.9% (variable)
Discounts and exclusive offers for dining experiences, leisure activities and shopping available through HSBC Home and Away.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 22.9% APR (variable).
first direct Credit Card Visa
0% for 27 months reverting to 18.9%
2.29% (min. £5) for 3 months reverting to 2.9% (min. £5)
18.9%
£0
18.9% (variable)
Earn cashback with selected retailers via Visa Offers, customers can register up to five separate first direct Visa cards.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 18.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 18.9% APR (variable).
HSBC Premier Credit Card Mastercard
0% for 18 months reverting to 18.9%
1.4% (min. £5)
0% for 9 months reverting to 18.9%
£0
18.9% (variable)
A selection of rewards from a range of partners. Earn 1 point for every £1 spent within the UK and earn 2 points for every £1 spent outside the UK. Points can be redeemed for shopping vouchers and frequent flyer miles.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 18.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 18.9% APR (variable).
John Lewis and Waitrose Partnership Mastercard
0% for 18 months reverting to 18.9%
2.9% (min. £5)
0% for 9 months reverting to 18.9%
£0
18.9% (variable)
Earn 1 point for every £1 spent in store or online at John Lewis, Waitrose and John Lewis Insurance. Earn 1 Point for every £2 spent elsewhere. Earn double points on selected insurances taken out through John Lewis Financial Services. Vouchers issued once customer reaches 500 points in Feb, Jun or Oct when vouchers are automatically issued to customers. Every 500 points is worth £5.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 18.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 18.9% APR (variable).
Santander Everyday Credit Card Mastercard
0% for 18 months reverting to 18.9%
0% for 18 months reverting to 3% (min. £5)
0% for 3 months reverting to 18.9%
£0
18.9% (variable)
Retailer offers - 5 Welcome offers of up to 25% cashback at well-known retailers (must switch on Retailer Offers within 60 days of activating card).
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 18.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 18.9% APR (variable).
Nationwide Member Credit Card Balance Transfer Offer
0% for 18 months reverting to 19.9%
1.5% (min. £5) for 3 months reverting to 2.4% (min. £5)
0% for 3 months reverting to 19.9%
£0
19.9% (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
Bank of Scotland Platinum 0% Purchase and Balance Transfer Mastercard
0% for 17 months reverting to 19.95%
2.99% for 3 months reverting to 5%
0% for 17 months reverting to 19.95%
£0
19.9% (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.95% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
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Data indicated here is updated daily
Name Product Purchases Balance transfers Annual/monthly fees Rep. APR Incentive Link
M&S Bank Shopping Plus Mastercard
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.9%
0% for 20 months
(2.9% fee)
£0
19.9% (variable)
Earn 1 point for every £1 spent at Marks and Spencer's and 1 point for every £5 spent elsewhere. 100 points = £1 reward voucher. Points will be converted into reward vouchers 4 times a year.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
HSBC Purchase Plus Credit Card Visa
0% for 18 months reverting to 22.9%
0% for 18 months
(2.9% fee)
£0
22.9% (variable)
Discounts and exclusive offers for dining experiences, leisure activities and shopping available through HSBC Home and Away.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 22.9% APR (variable).
M&S Bank Reward Plus Mastercard
0% for 6 months reverting to 19.9%
0% for 6 months
(2.9% fee)
£0
19.9% (variable)
Double points on spend in M&S for first 12 months (2 points per £1). Then earn 1 point for every £1 spent at Marks and Spencer's and 1 point for every £5 spent elsewhere. 100 points = £1 reward voucher. Points will be converted into reward vouchers 4 times a year.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
Santander All in One Credit Card Mastercard
0% for 26 months reverting to 15.9%
0% for 26 months
(0% fee)
£3 per month
21.7% (variable)
0.5% after £1 of monthly spend. Cashback paid Monthly into Card Account. Maximum spend for cashback purposes is limited to credit limit.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 15.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £3 per month, your representative rate is 21.7% APR (variable).
Tesco Bank Clubcard Plus Credit Card Mastercard
0% for 24 months reverting to 19.944%
21.814%
(3.99% fee)
£0
37.7% (variable)
1 point per £4 spent (£4 minimum) in Tesco and 1 point per £8 spent (£8 minimum) outside Tesco, must have available credit to earn points. Card can also be used as a Clubcard to collect standard points at 1 point per £1 spent on shopping and 1 point per £2 spent on fuel. Points are converted to Tesco vouchers which can be used towards shopping or exchanged for Partner Rewards.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.944% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 37.7% APR (variable).
Sainsbury's Bank Dual Offer Credit Card Mastercard
0% for 20 months reverting to 20.95%
0% for 20 months
(3% fee)
£0
20.9% (variable)
Earn 750 bonus Nectar points each time £35 or more spent on Sainsbury's shopping, up to ten times in your first 2 months, up to a total of 7,500 points, offer available for new customers. Earn 2 Nectar points per £1 spent on Sainsbury's shopping and fuel. Earn 1 Nectar point for every £5 spent elsewhere.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 20.95% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 20.9% APR (variable).
TSB Platinum Purchase Card
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.95%
0% for 20 months
(2.95% fee)
£0
19.9% (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a rate of 19.95% (variable) per annum, your representative APR is 19.9% APR (variable).
MBNA 0% Transfer and Purchase Credit Card
0% for 18 months reverting to 20.93%
0% for 18 months
(2.99% fee)
£0
20.9% (variable)
Introductory 0% purchase offer only applies to purchases made within 60 days of opening.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 20.93% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 20.9% APR (variable).
Santander World Elite Mastercard
0% for 18 months reverting to 18.9%
0% for 18 months
(0% fee)
£15 per month
49.8% (variable)
0.5% on £1 to £3000 of monthly spend. Maximum of £15 cashback paid per month. Cashback paid Monthly into Card Account. Maximum spend for cashback purposes is limited to credit limit.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 18.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £15 per month, your representative rate is 49.8% APR (variable).
Barclaycard Platinum 18 Month 0% Purchase and Balance Transfer Visa
0% for 18 months reverting to 20.9%
0% for 18 months
(2.9% fee)
£0
20.9% (variable)
Buy tickets for up to 3500 selected live events through Barclaycard entertainment and get 5% off tickets per year and exclusive presale tickets on selected festivals with 10% off ticket prices.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 20.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 20.9% APR (variable).
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Data indicated here is updated daily
Name Product Purchases Annual/monthly fees Credit limits Rep. APR Incentive Link
M&S Bank Shopping Plus Mastercard
0% for 20 months reverting to 19.9%
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
19.9% (variable)
Earn 1 point for every £1 spent at Marks and Spencer's and 1 point for every £5 spent elsewhere. 100 points = £1 reward voucher. Points will be converted into reward vouchers 4 times a year.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
M&S Bank Reward Plus Mastercard
0% for 6 months reverting to 19.9%
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
19.9% (variable)
Double points on spend in M&S for first 12 months (2 points per £1). Then earn 1 point for every £1 spent at Marks and Spencer's and 1 point for every £5 spent elsewhere. 100 points = £1 reward voucher. Points will be converted into reward vouchers 4 times a year.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
Maximiles Mastercard
0% for 3 months reverting to 17.9%
£0
Min. limit £100, max. limit not specified.
17.9% (variable)
Earn 1 Maximiles point for every £1 spent. 5000 bonus points when you make your first card purchase.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 17.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 17.9% APR (variable).
The Co-operative Bank Members' Credit Card Visa
18.3%
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
18.3% (variable)
1p earned for every £2 spent in The Co-operative Food stores (excluding in-store concessions) and 1p earned for every £3.33 spent anywhere else. Cashback will be added to your share of the Group profits and this will be paid to you twice a year.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 18.3% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 18.3% APR (variable).
John Lewis and Waitrose Partnership Mastercard
0% for 9 months reverting to 18.9%
£0
Min. limit £250, max. limit not specified.
18.9% (variable)
Earn 1 point for every £1 spent in store or online at John Lewis, Waitrose and John Lewis Insurance. Earn 1 Point for every £2 spent elsewhere. Earn double points on selected insurances taken out through John Lewis Financial Services. Vouchers issued once customer reaches 500 points in Feb, Jun or Oct when vouchers are automatically issued to customers. Every 500 points is worth £5.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 18.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 18.9% APR (variable).
HSBC Premier Credit Card Mastercard
0% for 9 months reverting to 18.9%
£0
Min. limit £1,500, max. limit not specified.
18.9% (variable)
A selection of rewards from a range of partners. Earn 1 point for every £1 spent within the UK and earn 2 points for every £1 spent outside the UK. Points can be redeemed for shopping vouchers and frequent flyer miles.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 18.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 18.9% APR (variable).
AIB Visa Option 1
18.9%
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
18.9% (variable)
0.5% after £5000 of yearly spend. Minimum of 12 transactions per year required. Maximum of £250 cashback paid per year. Cashback paid Anniversary into Card Account. For initial £5K a £25 cashback is paid, plus an additional £1 for every further £200 spent.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 18.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 18.9% APR (variable).
Bank of China (UK) Great Wall International Classic Credit Card Visa
17.1%
£10 per annum
Min. limit £250, max. limit £10,000.
19% (variable)
Earn 10 points per £1 spent on card; points can be redeemed for selected gifts or card annual fee waiver.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 17.1% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £10 per annum, your representative rate is 19% APR (variable).
smile Classic Credit Card Visa
19.9%
£0
Min. limit £200, max. limit not specified.
19.9% (variable)
0.25% after £1 of monthly spend. Cashback paid Monthly into Card Account.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
M&S Bank Transfer Plus Mastercard
0% for 6 months reverting to 19.9%
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
19.9% (variable)
Earn 1 point for every £1 spent at Marks and Spencer's and 1 point for every £5 spent elsewhere. 100 points = £1 reward voucher. Points will be converted into reward vouchers 4 times a year.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
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Data indicated here is updated daily
Name Product Annual/monthly fees Min credit limit Max credit limit Minimum income Rep. APR Incentive Link
Vanquis Bank Chrome Credit Card 24.7pc Visa
£0
£250
Subject to status: £1,000
Not specified
24.7%
Stay in control of your account with online servicing, a mobile app, SMS and email alerts.
Representative example: When you spend £1,000 at a purchase rate of 24.7% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 24.7% APR (variable).
Tandem Bank Journey Credit Card Mastercard
£0
£500
Subject to status: £1,500
£15000
24.9%
No fees for making purchases or withdrawing cash abroad – currencies are converted at the standard Mastercard exchange rate.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 24.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 24.9% APR (variable).
TSB Classic Credit Card Mastercard
£0
£500
Not specified
Not specified
26.9%
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 26.95% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 26.9% APR (variable).
Tesco Bank Foundation Clubcard Credit Card Mastercard
£0
£100
Subject to status
£5000
27.5%
Collect 1 Tesco Clubcard point per £4 spent (£4 minimum) in Tesco and 1 Clubcard point per £8 spent (£8 minimum) outside Tesco in each purchase transaction.  Must have available credit to collect Clubcard points. Clubcard points are turned into Clubcard vouchers every 3 months or sooner using Faster Vouchers. Clubcard vouchers can be used in Tesco or with Clubcard Reward Partners to get even more value on dining out, hotel stays and travel.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 27.542% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 27.5% APR (variable).
Vanquis Bank Chrome Card 29.3pc Visa
£0
£250
Subject to status: £1,000
Not specified
29.3%
Representative example: When you spend £1,000 at a purchase rate of 29.3% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 29.3% APR (variable).
Vanquis Bank Aquis Visa
£0
£250
Subject to status: £1,000
Not specified
29.8%
You could get a credit limit increase after your 5th statement and further increases every 5 months, up to £4,000.
Representative example: When you spend £1,000 at a purchase rate of 29.84% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 29.8% APR (variable).
Barclaycard Forward Credit Card Visa
£0
£50
Subject to status: £1,200
£3000
33.9%
Buy tickets for up to 3500 selected live events through Barclaycard entertainment and get 5% off tickets per year and exclusive pre-sale tickets on selected festivals with 10% off ticket prices.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 33.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 33.9% APR (variable).
118 118 Money Guaranteed Rate Card
£0
£500
Not specified
£8400
34%
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 34% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 34% APR (variable).
aqua Advance Mastercard
£0
£250
Not specified
Not specified
34.9%
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 34.95% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 34.9% APR (variable).
Fluid Mastercard
£0
£300
Not specified
Not specified
34.9%
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 34.94% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 34.9% APR (variable).
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Data indicated here is updated daily
Name Product Purchases Annual/monthly fees Credit limits Rep. APR Incentive Link
British Airways American Express Card
22.2%
£0
Min. limit £700, max. limit not specified.
22.2% (variable)
New Cardmember offer: Earn 5,000 bonus Avios when you spend £1,000 in your first 6 months of Cardmembership.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.2% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 22.2% APR (variable).
British Airways American Express Premium Plus
22.2%
£195 per annum
Min. limit £700, max. limit not specified.
74.7% (variable)
As a new Cardmember, earn 25,000 bonus Avios when you spend £3,000 in your first 6 months of Cardmembership.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.2% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £195 per annum, your representative rate is 74.7% APR (variable).
Virgin Money Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit Card
22.9%
£0
Min. limit not specified, max. limit not specified.
22.9% (variable)
Earn 5,000 bonus miles with your first card purchase made within 90 days of account opening. Earn 0.75 Flying Club miles for every £1 spend. Spend £20K a year on your card and choose an extra benefit - an upgrade to premium, or a Companion ticket. Double miles when you spend directly with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays through the contact centre and online. Earn an additional 2,000 bonus miles if you spend £1K within 90 days of opening until 31.10.19.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 22.9% APR (variable).
Virgin Money Virgin Atlantic Reward Plus Credit Card
22.9%
£160 per annum
Min. limit not specified, max. limit not specified.
63.9% (variable)
Earn 15,000 bonus miles with your first card purchase made within 90 days of account opening. Earn 1.5 Flying Club miles for every £1 spend and 3 miles for every £1 spend with Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays. Spend £10K a year on your card and choose an extra benefit - an upgrade to Premium, or a Companion ticket.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £160 per annum, your representative rate is 63.9% APR (variable).
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Apple Pay

Using a credit card with Apple Pay

apple pay logo
  1. Which devices are compatible with Apple Pay? Apple Pay is only available on Apple devices. It is supported on newer model iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches and Macs. If you’re on an older iPhone device that runs an older iOS variant, you’ll have to update if you want to access Apple Pay.
  2. Which banks support Apple Pay? A wide variety of UK banks support Apple Pay, including Barclays, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds, Nationwide and NatWest. If your preferred bank hasn’t launched Apple Pay yet, it might be wiser to wait for it to adopt the technology rather than to apply for the card now.
  3. What features do I need to consider? Just like any other type of credit card, you’ll want to consider the rates, fees and perks of the different types of cards that boast Apple Pay.

Google Pay

Using a credit card with Google Pay

Android-pay-coming-to-Australia-img-8-may-2017
  1. Which devices are compatible with Google Pay? Almost all Android smartphones with NFC (Near Field Communication) can take advantage of Google Pay.
  2. Which banks support Google Pay? Google Pay is supported by Mastercard and Visa credit cards from a wide range of UK banks including Halifax, HSBC, Nationwide, Lloyds Bank, MBMA and M&S Bank.
  3. What features do I need to consider? Just like any other type of credit card, you’ll want to consider the rates, fees and perks of the different types of cards that boast Google Pay.

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