The surprising rules on contactless payment

Waiters definitely shouldn't tap you card for you...


The surprising unknown rules about contactless payment

I was in a bar with friends, when it first happened to me little over a month ago.

As we gathered our belongings to leave, we asked for the bill and the waiter handed us a metal tray, with the total amount on.

See also: Is cash on the way out?

See also: What's changed in 10 years of contactless payments?

As if in sync, all four of us placed our cards on the plate, planning to split the bill four ways.

The waiter picked up the first card, asked if we were splinting the bill and started applying contactless for us. No question was asked, no hand signal, no eye contact, gesture, nothing. Assuming it was perfectly normal, my friend shrugged it off.

I asked if I could tap mine myself - to which he gave a little frown. I also asked for a receipt.

It happened again last weekend. In a curry house, I asked for the bill and placed my card on the plate. I grabbed my handbag to make a phone call and before I knew it my card was being placed back on the table in front of me.

"Has the payment been made?" I asked, slightly confused. To which he replied, "yes" and walked off.

I then followed him for a receipt, uncomfortable with the fact that he decided how I was going to pay for me.

Which made me think - are retailers even allowed to make this decision for you? Are they even allowed to touch your card? I started to do some digging.

The rules of contactless

Credits: Getty Images

Who's allowed to tap?

There are 108.4 million contactless cards circulating the UK. Every month £3,913.3 million is spent using this payment, which jumps to £4,16.3 million when you factor in all tap-and-go transactions.

Worryingly, it was this statistic that startled me the most:

  • Almost half - 48% - of shoppers don't always check the balance before they tap and go

This raises two questions a) Are these people tapping the cards themselves and b) How do they know they're paying the right amount?

After all, it takes just a split second for an accidental '0' to be dropped in which is the difference between a £3 pint and a £30 one.

If that doesn't make you think twice, perhaps the fact that you are liable once you make a payment, will.

Why you should never hand over your card to the server when paying with contactless

Why are we so frivolous about it?

Do you always check before you tap?

In April, the UK Cards Association reported a 20.6% jump in the use of tap-and-go payments compared to 2015, which implies a growing appetite for this type of payment.

The average contactless transaction is £9.40 - the cap is £30 a transaction.

There's also been a mammoth jump in Apple Pay and Google Pay transactions - with Samsung Pay the latest to join the market.

You wouldn't hand your phone over a cashier to make a payment, so why do so with the most important piece of plastic you own?

In 2015, £25.2 billion worth of contactless fraud took place.

In in many cases there's evidence to suggest staff in restaurants and bars are behind this - posing as waiters to 'skim' card details using magnetic strips on the back.

The risk exists.

Worryingly, young people, those aged 18-34, are the least likely to check the amount before paying, with only four in ten doing so every time they pay.

Are contactless payments safe? Your most common questions answered

The merchant should NEVER take your card

The UK Cards Association is clear on these rules - it states that the retailer should never handle your card and your card should never be used on your behalf.

In addition, it should never leave your sight. This means if the waiter walks away with it, you can ask to go with them or bring the device to you for transparency.

The card payments body told Mirror Money: "When contactless cards were originally introduced, there were issues in high through-put environments (e.g. busy bars) as cards were automatically charged by (the bar) staff.

"However, common practice, as is noted in the guidelines, is that the customer should 'lead' the transaction, based on contact with the retailer staff and terminal message prompts being displayed in return."

Official guidelines state:

"The card or device should always stay in the customer's hand (or on their person in the case of wearables), and both you and the customer should follow the terminal prompts".

The body went on to tell us: "Contactless is a fast, easy and secure way to make purchases under £30. Whenever someone is paying with contactless, whether in a shop, bar or restaurant, we always recommend that the customer keeps hold of the card during the transaction.

"That way customers have peace of mind as they keep in control, and it also speeds up the process for retailers too."

The true dangers of contactless cards revealed - and how to make sure you stay safe

How to be safe with contactless

Credits: PA

You wouldn't hand over your phone, so why hand over your card?

  • You'd never hand your phone over to make an Apple payment - so why do so with the most expensive thing you own? Never hand your card over to anyone.

  • If your card is taken out of your sight someone could 'skim it', copying the data from its magnetic strip. As the waiter to bring the machine to you or go to the till yourself.

  • Ask for a receipt: Contactless users aren't always offered a receipt, so if you want to keep track of spending or make sure a transaction is genuine, you should ask for one. This also applies in cases where contactless has been applied without your consent. A receipt will verify how much you've been charged.

  • Check your statements: Regularly look for unusual transactions, including on lost or stolen cards, as in some cases they can still be used after being cancelled.

  • Digital wallets: You can store your card details in a 'digital wallet' in the apps, Apple Pay and Android Pay. These allow you to buy goods by holding your phone over a contactless reader.

  • Use a foil-lined wallet: A metal case can help keep this information safe from scammers. However, tin foil is also known to be just as effective at preventing the card from being read.

  • Just say no: If you are worried about contactless card safety, ask your bank to issue you with a new card that doesn't have this feature.

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