6 contactless card payments mistakes we're making


Updated on 23 September 2019 | 16 Comments

As contactless payments keep rising in popularity, we look at the common mistakes we're all making.

Contactless technology is designed to make paying for things like coffee, sandwiches and travel quicker and simpler, but as it’s all still relatively new there are ways we could be risking our safety or simply just not maximising its potential.

So here are some of the common contactless mistakes we’re making and what you can do about them.

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Tapping without looking

Contactless payments are so simple to make that it’s easy to forget to check the amount before tapping. So a £2.80 bill can easily become £28 if you’re not careful.

2017 research from card payments firm PaymentSense showed that we’re more likely to be overcharged when we pay using contactless technology than any other way.

It found around 53% of shoppers were overcharged when using contactless payments compared to 41% when using cash.

The research also found as many as 15% don’t request a receipt so we’re even less likely to notice we’ve been charged incorrectly.

PaymentSense set up an experiment in London to check how good we are at spotting being charged the wrong amount.

The pop-up coffee stall accepted contactless payments but deliberately entered the wrong amount into the card machine. In some cases, the stall charged £28 for a £2.80 coffee.

Being overcharged is often a simple mistake but in some cases devious servers may try to inflate your bill you so that they can lift the money from the till.

You might be particularly vulnerable to this in a pub, bar or restaurant when you are distracted especially if the server takes the card and taps for you! Which leads me onto the next point …

Handing over your card to pay

It might sound odd, but handing over your contactless card to make a payment could put you at risk of fraud.

The UK Cards Association best practice guidelines states the card ‘should always stay in the customer’s hand’.

But often servers at pubs, restaurants, bars or shops will reach out to take your card and tap it themselves. While this may be an innocent gesture it could also be a crafty way to steal your details.

Experts say you should refuse to hand over your card to pay for goods or services as this could leave you vulnerable to getting your card skimmed – where your details are copied.

This is possible through a card reader, which could be a simple app on a mobile phone.

Not checking your statements

Even if you’re hot on checking the amount before paying, you could still fall foul of contactless card problems by failing to keep an eye on your statements.

This is especially important given the reports that lost or stolen cards that have been cancelled can still be used by fraudsters to make contactless payments.

The security flaw lies in whether the contactless payment is processed ‘online’ or ‘offline’ by a business.

When payments are processed online the card machine instantly contacts the customer’s bank to check for sufficient funds and if a card has been cancelled it will be flagged – so there is less risk of fraud.

However, if a payment is processed offline the card machine stores up a batch of payments to process online later. This process is allowing criminals to get away with using the stolen contactless cards long after they’ve been cancelled.

The advice is to keep checking your statements for unusual activity and flag any payments you are suspicious of or don’t remember making to your bank, which should refund you for your losses.

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Keeping your cards in the same place

If you have more than one contactless payment card in your wallet you are likely to experience card clash.

This is common on the London underground when commuters don’t remove one particular card to use on the reader and try to tap their whole purse or wallet.

Contactless terminals are designed to only take one payment from one card for any one transaction, so will reject payment if more than one contactless card is presented at the same time.

This isn’t a safety risk but could cause a bit of a hold up for the people behind you in the queue and could mean you end up paying with a card you hadn’t intended to.

Thinking it’s all about cards

Contactless payments technology is now widely available on other devices like smartphones, tablets and smartwatches via Apple Pay and Android Pay.

These systems allow you to store your credit card and/or debit card details in a secure mobile wallet and use your device with a contactless reader.

This means you can leave your contactless cards and the rest of your wallet at home.

What’s more when using Apple Pay and Android Pay, retailers are able to waive the normal contactless limit of £30 so long as a fingerprint or PIN code is used to authorise it.

Forgetting your PIN

While contactless allows you to make payments without a PIN, it doesn’t mean you can forget it entirely.

Card issuers will limit the number of contactless transactions that can be made in a day or over a period of time before a PIN is requested, in order to prevent fraud.

So if you only use your card for small payments make sure you can recall the PIN to avoid getting caught out at the till.

Learn more about contactless payments

Contactless is still relatively new technology so it’s important to keep up to date with how fraudsters are trying to crack it and the new and changing ways there are to use it.

If you still aren’t sure about how contactless payments work take a look at this guide: Contactless payments UK: how do they work, how safe are they and how much can you spend?

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