The limit on contactless payments will more than double from 15 October, and there are concerns that the higher cap could lead to a rise in fraud.
The change will be the second increase to the contactless limit in less than two years, taking the maximum you can spend on a debit or credit card without a Pin from £45 to £100.
Contactless cards make it quick and easy to make purchases. However, the jump in the limit could put consumers at an increased risk of fraud if the card is stolen, as criminals may be able to spend uo to £300 without facing a security check.
Here, Which? looks at why the limit is increasing, how safe it is, and whether you can opt-out of having the contactless feature.
Why is the limit increasing?
Initially, the contactless limit was set at £30, but it was increased to £45 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in April 2020 in response to changing consumer behaviour.
The move has proved popular with shoppers. In 2020 the number of contactless payments made in the UK increased by 12% to 9.6bn payments, according to UK Finance.
So in March 2021, the Treasury and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) made the decision to increase the limit further to £100 to keep up with how people prefer to pay and help aid the recovery from the pandemic.
Now a date has been set for the rollout of the new higher limit. From 15 October, shoppers will start to see retailers accepting contactless payments up to the new £100 limit, though terminals will need to be updated to accept the new limit so it could take a bit longer to use it across all retailers.
- Find out more: how contactless cards work
Is increasing the contactless limit safe?
Contactless fraud rates are really low, equivalent to less than 2p in every £100 spent in early 2020. This is lower than the level recorded in 2018 (2.7p) and represents just 2.8% of overall card fraud.
Currently, under the £45 limit on contactless card transactions, card issuers restrict cumulative payments that can be made before a Pin is requested at £130.
From 15 October the £100-per-transaction limit will see card issuers raise the cumulative payment cap to £300.
So, if your card is stolen the higher limit means thieves may be able to spend more on your card before they’re asked for a Pin. And that’s providing the cumulative cap kicks in. Which? research from 2016 found that some banks failed to enforce the limit on contactless transactions.
However, banks should refund money that has been fraudulently taken from your card and the FCA says it will take enforcement action if it finds banks are allowing breaches of the cumulative transaction limit.
- Find out more: how to protect yourself from scams
What to do if your contactless card is lost or stolen
If you lose your card or think it might have been stolen, then you should contact your bank straight away so that it can cancel your card.
According to the FCA, almost all contactless card transactions are processed online, which means they should go to your bank for authorisation. Once the card ‘checks in’ online with the bank it will disable the card if it has been reported lost or stolen.
If a fraudster manages to find a loophole to use your lost or stolen card, it’s your bank’s responsibility to investigate this.
Your bank should refund you in full for any money that has been fraudulently taken from your card, but you must report it missing immediately as this could impact your claim. In addition, if your card provider can show that you’ve been grossly negligent, it can refuse to refund you anything.
Can I opt-out of having a contactless card?
Many providers allow you to opt-out of having a contactless card, but when we checked in October 2020 we found some big-name banks and credit card providers don’t, including American Express, Metro Bank, Capital One, Starling and Monzo.
Some banks which offer both credit and debit cards allow you to opt-out of either just your credit card or debit card. Barclays allows you to opt-out of contactless on its debit card but not on Barclaycard credit cards, for example.
You can find the full list of banks and credit card providers that will allow you to opt-out in our guide to contactless payments.
How to avoid contactless card fraud
There are ways you can limit the risk of contactless card fraud, which we outline below:
1) Make sure your card isn’t visible
If your card is on display and someone sees it they could run it through a skimming device, which copies its data from the magnetic strip. Make sure you avoid keeping your card in pockets or open bags, or any other place it may be easily spotted.
2) Always ask for a receipt on purchases
Asking for a receipt should make it easier to keep track of your spending and make sure you haven’t been overcharged.
3) Check your bank statements
It’s wise to check your bank statements as much as you can to look for unusual transactions. If you have your bank’s mobile app, this should be pretty easy so long as you check regularly. Remember to check on lost and stolen cards, too as they can still be used after being cancelled.
- Find out more: report scams to warn others