Contactless Cards: Do You Think They’re Genius or a Giant Risk?

Hi folks,

Hope you’ve had a good week. It’s been mile-a-minute here, what with kids, sorting out some IT stuff with this site and still trying to tie up loose ends from the break-in. But can’t complain, I’ve ticked loads off the list for once (though only about half of what was on it of course!) and boy, am I looking forward to a glass of wine tonight.  

One good thing that happened this week – I got the last of my new bank cards through – had to replace them all after they were nicked in the break-in. Stuff like that makes me feel I’m putting the break-in behind us, thank God. Only waiting now for a new Advantage card from Boots. Oh, it kills me that somewhere out there the pesky thief is using all my hard-earned points to enjoy a three-for-two offer on crowbars.

Anyway, as my new bank cards have arrived I’ve noticed that they’ve now got a funny little wave symbol on them that wasn’t there before. It took me a few moments of staring blankly before something stirred right at the back of my brain and registered that this was the wave-and-pay symbol that lets me now pay for a packet of crisps or a Mars Bar or other tiny purchases without keying in my pin. Handy, eh? Of course, I guess if you’re the brazen type, keying your pin in to pay titchy amounts wouldn’t bother you. I’ve certainly queued behind people who put a newspaper on a debit card, but I’ve always been a bit too embarrassed to do the same. There’s a bye-law in my brain that doesn’t let me Switch anything under a fiver, so I often find myself buying a extra things that I don’t really need, just to make the total up to an amount I feel is respectable to put on a card.

penny sweets cushion

Are you one of the brave souls who’d Switch a penny mix-up at the tills?

 Anyway, now that I’ve got shiny new cards with these wave-and-pay symbols, my troubles in that department could all be gone. I can now brandish my contactless cards at the till – a bit like a magic wand – and abracadabra, the payment’s made. No need to shamefacedly hold up the queue as I Switch a packet of crisps, no need to fumble for enough pennies to complete the purchase of a fruit scone. A simple wave – hell, let’s make it a flourish – and I’ll be swanning out of the shop, scone in hand, the rest of the queue beaming approvingly as they move swiftly along. 

This little wave symbol lets me buy anything under £20 without having to put in my pin or insert my card anywhere. It’s known as contactless payment and apparently it’s the next Big Thing. I can see the advantages: no more  tuts from the shop assistant for trying to Switch a packet of Quavers, no running to the ATM before buying a pint of milk, but I wonder how secure these contactless cards are. See, although getting my cards stolen was a pain in the neck, at least the thief couldn’t use them without knowing my pin. If my new cards are nicked, someone can just wave them in front of a terminal and bulk buy Quavers till their bellies are full. OK, so each purchase with contactless cards is capped at £20, but someone could use it again and again for purchases below this threshhold, with no need to key in any security details.At the minute anyway it seems that outside London stores are being slow to install the technology that lets people wave and pay. Out of curiosity I’ve asked about it in a couple of places and although retailers had heard of it, only Marks and Spencer said yes, I could use it to pay for shopping.

contactless cards logo

Here’s what it looks like, folks. It had me foxed at first.

Would you? Or have you already? I’m guessing they’re already used in the States and some other countries – I’d love to find out what the uptake’s like there if so. Or don’t you care about contactless cards anyway, being one of the brave souls who happily pays for your chewing gum with a Switch card? Do you have a minimum threshold for Switching, like me? So many questions I know, I must be feeling especially nosey about what you’re all thinking today . . . 


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Photo Credit for Penny Sweets: Martin Wiscombe


About Skint in the City

Skint in the City provides stylish, practical tips and advice on how to live the high life on a shoestring budget.

3 thoughts on “Contactless Cards: Do You Think They’re Genius or a Giant Risk?

  1. I love it, but then my bank is so on the ball with any unusual transaction, even smaller ones they contact me. I’ve been so impressed with them over the years. Plus if there are unusual transactions and they can’t contact me the account is locked.
    In Aus you can do paywave for anything under $100.

    • So interesting to get this perspective, Kylie. It’s fairly new here, but sounds like Oz is way ahead of us. Maybe it’s the usual suspicion of something new that’s making it less popular here – wonder if that will settle down as people get used to it. I have to say though that at the moment it makes me nervous! Your bank sounds brilliant but I’d be afraid of my card getting stolen and used easily by someone else without any of my details. Does that make me an old stick-in-the-mud? Maybe!

  2. Seems crazy. I don’t like carrying cash, but having a card like this would be like carrying money. All it takes is for a hooded youth to mug you and then go spending before you have time to alert your bank.

    Fraud is a huge emerging market and was recently discussed at length on one of the finance programmes on BBC Radio. Wireless and cloud technology is impressive yet so obviously flawed from a security perspective. It sounds as though your bank has forced you to accept this new payment option as part of the regular service although you didn’t ask for it. That would annoy me.

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