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What is Visa PayWave? Your ultimate guide

What is Visa PayWave? Your ultimate guide
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If you’re wondering what Visa PayWave is, you’re in the right place! If you have a Visa credit or debit card, there’s an excellent chance you’ve got a Visa PayWave card. Visa PayWave is a popular and widely accepted contactless payment method that comes by default on most Visa bank cards.

Why choose Visa PayWave?

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, contactless payment has become more popular as it’s more hygienic than cash or Chip and PIN. The obvious reason to use Visa PayWave is that it’s probably already built into your bank card. Unlike many other contactless payment methods, you don’t need to install an app, or even own a smartphone.

Although most payment terminals accept both contactless and Chip and PIN cards, with Visa PayWave, you’re not tied to only contactless. Because it’s built into your card, you can use it on any payment terminal.

How can you get started?

Take a look at your Visa card. If you find a symbol that looks like the WiFi symbol turned on its side, then PayWave is built into your card and you’re ready to go. There’s nothing to set up and no apps to install. You don’t even need to know your PIN (although it’s still sensible to memorise it, just in case).

When and where can you use it?

You can use Visa PayWave at any payment terminal that shows the same symbol you found on your card. If you find a payment terminal that doesn’t display that symbol, you can just insert or swipe your card as you would normally.

There’s a £45 limit for Visa PayWave payments; for larger payments, the system will ask you for your PIN or mobile passcode.

How does it work?

Visa PayWave cards contain a chip with your information, and an antenna. When the chip enters the field around a contactless card reader, it checks whether the reader is legitimate. If so, it transmits your encrypted payment information to the reader.

From your perspective, it couldn’t be easier. When you’re ready to pay, rather than inserting your card and entering your PIN, just hold your card over the screen or symbol.

All being well, the terminal will beep, then tell you that your payment has been accepted. If it doesn’t work, try holding your card in a different position, or keep it still for a few extra seconds.

Are there any extra fees?

There are no extra fees for using Visa PayWave, but you’ll still have to pay any fees associated with your card (if there are any).

What if you lose your card?

This is the big weakness in the system: anyone who finds your card can use it for payments up to £45. If you lose your card, contact your bank or card issuer immediately and put a stop on the card. If you use your bank’s app, most of them let you stop or cancel your card directly from the app.

As long as you inform your bank or card issuer as soon as you realise what’s happened, Visa’s Zero Liability Policy will protect you against unauthorised payments.

Is Visa PayWave secure?

When you use Visa PayWave, the data is encrypted and protected with a specially generated one-time-only digital signature. This means it’s just as secure as a normal Chip and PIN transaction, and more secure than using cash.

For security, if your bank notices unusual payments, it will ask for a PIN or passcode the next time someone tries to use the card.

Can it go wrong?

If you have more than one card in your wallet, the technology has “anti-collision” features. When you swipe your wallet without taking the card out, if the reader detects two cards at the same time, it will either only charge one of them, or cancel the transaction. Despite that, it’s far smarter to only use one card at a time – you don’t want it to charge the wrong card.

Likewise, the technology prevents double-charging of one card, even if you do tap it on the reader more than once.


Visa PayWave is convenient, secure, hygienic, and might already be on your bankcard. Now that you know what it is, there’s nothing to stop you from using it.

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