New £30 limit for contactless cards payments


Shoppers will be able to make higher-value purchases with their contactless cards when the limit for a single payment made in this way increases from £20 to £30 from tomorrow.

The increased limit is likely to broaden the appeal of contactless payments further as more people make them part of their day-to-day routine.

The use of "tap and go" technology has already seen strong growth over the last year as it has become accepted in a rapidly-expanding variety of places - from popping to the supermarket to visiting a charity shop, posting a parcel, buying a pasty or jumping onto public transport.

Contactless payments were introduced in the UK in 2007 as a handy alternative to scrabbling around for cash to pay for low-value transactions.

Now there are 58 million contactless cards in the UK. According to trade body the UK Cards Association, more contactless transactions took place during the first nine months of 2014 than the previous six years combined.

The range of places where contactless payments are accepted includes Aldi, Barnardo's, Greggs, McDonald's, M6 Toll, London Buses, London Tubes and the Post Office. 

Richard Koch, head of policy at the UK Cards Association, said: "Contactless payments are fast, easy and secure and use the same robust encryption technology as chip and Pin.

"Consumers are increasingly choosing contactless as a way to pay and the new £30 limit will give shoppers and retailers even more opportunities."

The technology enables customers to pay for goods with a single swipe of their card on a reader, without the need to sign or enter a Pin number.

The latest increase to the limit is the third to have taken place. The last increase to the contactless limit was made in June 2012, when £5 was added, taking the limit to £20. Before that, it was raised from £10 to £15 in 2010.

The new £30 contactless limit is being rolled out from September 1. Not all retailers will offer the new limit from day one, as software updates will need to be made to payment terminals in order to allow them to accept the new limit.

There are more than 200,000 bank-owned terminals, so a lot of upgrading work needs to take place.

The UK Cards Association said that customers should follow the prompts on the terminals when they pay.

Contactless cards work by containing a chip that holds a consumer's account information and an antenna that picks up power from a signal sent out by the card reader.

Some concerns have been raised about how susceptible contactless cards are to criminals using technology in an attempt to steal card details remotely.

A recent investigation by consumer group Which? used "easily and cheaply" acquired technology from a mainstream website to take enough information from cards to place orders for items including a £3,000 television set. 

But the UK Cards Association has described instances of fraud on contactless cards as "extremely rare", with losses of less than a penny for every £100 spent on contactless - far lower than card fraud generally.

If someone's contactless card is used fraudulently, consumers are fully protected against any fraud losses and will not be left out of pocket, the Association has said.

Card providers should reimburse victims of contactless fraud, as long as they have taken reasonable steps to keep their card safe.

The Which? investigation found that one possible solution to foiling fraudsters trying to read a card remotely could be lying in the kitchen.

It found that, while it is by no means essential, wrapping a card in tin foil could prevent it from being read.