More people are spending on contactless cards than ever before. There are over 108.4 million contactless cards in the UK, and over 416.3 million transactions are made every single month. But there’s a big question for many people: is contactless secure?
Contactless cards are used to make small payments in stores, and they are often used with self-service kiosks to speed up the buying process. There is a lot of debate around the topic of how secure they are, so here we look at the issue in more depth.
What Are Contactless Payments?
Contactless debit and credit cards are now a very common way to pay for goods in the UK and around the world. By simply touching your card against the card reader when you buy something in a store, you can complete the payment without having to type in your PIN or sign the receipt.
So, how do contactless payments work? The cards have a chip inside that emit radio waves and an antenna that transmits those waves to the card reader. In order to pay for something using a contactless card, all you need to do is hold the card to the card reader and it will instantly pick up the signal and process the payment for you.
Because they are so easy to use, contactless cards are often used when paying via a self-service kiosk, which in turn helps to reduce queue sizes.
However, they can only be used to make small purchases and at the moment the limit is £30.
Contactless Card Fraud Is Growing
UK Finance has found that contactless fraud is on the increase. In fact, it has now become a bigger problem than cheque fraud and was worth £5.6 million in the first half of 2017.
So, is contactless secure? Let’s look at some of the risks associated with this method of payment.
Can People Steal Money from Your Pocket?
One of the great fears is that criminals are able to steal money from your contactless card simply by getting close enough to charge it wirelessly. The fear is that criminals can charge your card without you even noticing by carrying a Chip & PIN machine.
However, this is unlikely. While there have been reports of it happening, it would be hard to do. Card readers must be linked to a bank account, and many checks are made to prevent them being used fraudulently. Besides, the rewards are small for the amount of effort the criminal has to go to.
What If Someone Steals Your Card?
If someone steals your contactless card, it’s true that they could use it to make small purchases before you cancel it.
But small payments are not really worth the effort for criminals. While they could steal a small amount of money from a card, it would be far more worthwhile for them to use the card to make larger purchases online – a risk that is present with any credit or debit card.
Skimming: What Is This and Could You Be Affected?
Skimming is where criminals can collect the details of your contactless card wirelessly using fairly simple technology. They do not take payments this way, but they can get information from the card like your name, card number and expiry date.
The fear is that they could use this information to create a clone of your card that they could then use in ATMs or shops. However, again, the risk is thought to be low.
How to Keep Your Contactless Card Secure
While the jury is still out on whether contactless cards present a greater risk than normal cards, you can take steps to keep your cards safe. These include:
- Looking after your card and not leaving it unattended
- Using a RFID-blocking wallet to prevent people scanning your card in your pocket or bag
- Always reporting a card lost or stolen as soon as you realise it is missing
- Regularly checking your bank statements for any suspicious movements
So, Is Contactless Secure?
Contactless payments have made shopping more convenient for millions of people. As you can see, there are security issues to be aware of. However, in general, contactless cards are seen as a very safe way to spend money. The truth is, there are many security features built into the technology and they are still far safer than carrying cash.
So while you should certainly take security measures with your contactless cards in the same way you would any other credit or debit card, there is no need to be paranoid.