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During months of contactless human interaction, contactless payment has been in the news too. Banks have upped the usual £30 limit to enable contactless payment for food and essential goods, which helps prevent transmission of the coronavirus. Of course the advantages during a pandemic are clear. But the other benefits of contactless payment may not be so obvious. Here are five.
1. It’s safer
One of the most important benefits of contactless payment is that it’s safer – not only because it stops us picking up germs left by all the people who’ve used a PIN pad before us, but also in terms of security. It’s not generally realised that contactless payment has the same protection as chip and PIN. In fact, contactless cards and devices have multiple layers of security embedded in them to protect you against fraud. Data encryption protects sensitive information and stops hackers getting their hands on your details. Although there is information that anyone can see on the outside of the card, it’s not much use to a fraudster and couldn’t be used to clone the card. What’s more, contactless payment only works when a device is within a few centimetres of the terminal, making it nigh on impossible for details to be intercepted.
2. It saves time
It’s obviously quicker to tap a card on a terminal than to tap in your four-digit PIN when prompted, press enter and wait for it to be approved. In fact, it’s estimated that contactless payments work twice as fast as normal cards. Of course this has a knock-on effect that speeds up the whole shopping process. It reduces the length of queues in supermarkets, for example. Likewise, anyone who travels by tube or train knows how much quicker it is to tap your credit card at the gateline to go through. Tickets hold you up, and so does the person in front of you whose ticket doesn’t work and who stands there waiting for help – usually when you’re 10 minutes late for a meeting. (Remember those days?)
3. It’s easy to use abroad
There are different card limits in different countries (it’s normally €25 in France, for example). But where retailers offer contactless payment – the icon for this is the same across the world – you can tap and pay quickly and without fuss. And without having to use your GCSE French or Spanish to explain that you’ve put in the wrong PIN by mistake.
4. It can be used on lots of devices
One of the most exciting benefits of contactless payment is that its Near Field Communication (NFC) chip technology can be built into all kinds of devices, enabling them to make payments. So, it’s not just contactless cards we’re talking about. Smartphones, tablets, watches and key fobs can also be used. And vehicles can make foreign motorway toll payments automatically using the technology. Believe it or not, it is even possible to implant NFC chips in people.
5. It’s cheaper for retailers
There are some benefits of contactless payment for retailers, too. If they accept contactless payment, they don’t have to pay extra fees on the payments to the credit card companies. They only have to install the right card readers. The fact that the process is quicker can also free up till staff to work elsewhere in the store: another cost benefit for retailers. Of course anything that keeps costs down helps keep prices lower too.
What are the ‘cons’?
We’ve looked at the benefits of contactless payment, and it’s worth checking out the best contactless payment methods for you. But there are a few minor ‘cons’. Firstly, there’s a low limit to contactless payments, so they can’t be used for bigger purchases. Secondly, it’s not a good idea to pay using the card still in your wallet. There will probably be other cards in there, and the machine might not recognise the correct one. Thirdly, not all places accept contactless payments yet, although the majority now do. So, don’t forget your PIN!
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