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Contactless cards: is your bank waving goodbye to the revolution?


You can't go into some supermarkets, coffee shops, or certain stores without being offered the chance to pay "contactlessly" - so why are some banks still sending out new cards that can't be used to wave and pay?

Over the last year the number of stores and outlets that will let customers pay this way has grown enormously, but whether you've actually got the right card in your purse or wallet still largely depends on where you bank.

While Barclays and TSB have seized the "contactless" opportunity, others such as Lloyds, Nationwide and Santander, have been dragging their heels.

The ability to buy items costing up to £20 without the need to insert your card into a terminal and input a pin has proved remarkably popular among those who have tried it - despite initial fears over security.

Barclaycard introduced the first contactless cards in the UK in 2007, but mass take-up of the technology has been slow. The banks were - in the main - reluctant to offer them because there were so few places where customers could use them. And retailers weren't keen on introducing new sales terminals ... because so few customers had contactless cards.

Pret, Boots and McDonalds were all early adopting retailers that helped break this cycle. But it was Transport for London's take-up of the cards on the tube network last month that was the tipping point, say industry insiders.

For those living outside the capital that milestone could be attributed to Tesco's introduction of contactless terminals in its store upgrades.

Richard Koch of the UK Cards Association says it looks as though 2014 will be the year contactless payments really took off. "Consumers like it because it's faster than chip and PIN, simple and easy to use, and is a secure method of paying for your shopping.

"It is already available on the London bus and tube networks, and many other transport operators across the country are making plans so that their customers can use it, too."

He says 23.8m contactless transactions were made in June - a 7% increase on the previous month but up 226% over the same month a year before - with the vast majority of customers using contactless debit rather than credit cards.

Mastercard said this week that it has seen contactless payments rise by 352% over the last year. All its shop terminals across Europe will accept contactless payments by the start of 2020. But if you have a "basic" bank account that does not let you go overdrawn - the banks won't issue you a contactless card.

In 2013 a number of M&S customers found that they had paid for goods on a card held in their purse, rather than the one they had intended to use, or that they had paid twice, following a glitch in the store's terminals. That seems to have been an isolated incident, and Money has not had any other complaints from readers who have had problems after paying for something contactlessly.

The biggest threat is on the tube where there is a risk of double payment. Users need to use the same card to enter and leave the system, and keep that card separate from others.

Tfl said it soon expects to see its one millionth contactless payment since the system was expanded to include the tube. Using a contactless debit card is great for infrequent travellers to the capital, who no longer have to go to the hassle of getting an Oyster card.

Who is in ... and out

Lloyds, Halifax and Bank of Scotland, which has around 22 million current account customers, have so far sent out around 4.6m contactless cards - suggesting only around a quarter of customers can use one. As cards are renewed, they will be replaced with contactless.

TSB, which had to send out replacement debit cards to its 2.2 million customers following its split from Lloyds, has now given all customers contactless-enabled cards.

Barclays, the bank that has set the pace, says 70% of debit card holders now have a contactless card - customers can request one, rather than having to wait until their card expires. Over 95% of Barclaycards are contactless.

Santander, a slow starter, says that it started sending out contactless cards in February and has issued 1.3m debit cards and 412,000 123 credit cards. Cards are only being upgraded as they are replaced. It operates 9m debit cards.

HSBC says 75% of card holders have a contactless card, for both its own and First Direct customers - with the rest getting new cards by the end of April next year.

RBS/NatWest says it has issued 7m contactless debit cards and plans to issue the remaining 5m over the next 12 months. "Customers can request a contactless card at any time by contacting a branch or by phone," it says.

Nationwide, one of the biggest refuseniks at the start, began sending out contactless debit cards in July to holders of its paid-for FlexPlus, and online-only FlexDirect accounts. The majority of its standard Flex account customers will not start getting cards on a replacement basis until next month. A spokeswoman says that in early 2015 they will launch a facility where customers can opt in or opt out for cards with a contactless payment facility. This was seen as important by the society as not everyone wants a card that doesn't require the user to input their pin for each purchase.

1 Comment

1 Comment

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