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Contactless payments are popular these days. Being able to hover your credit card over the payment reader instead of dipping the chip is becoming more common. You probably have at least one contactless credit card already. But are banks making every card contactless? You may be surprised by the answer.

Chase Contactless Credit Cards
You can begin making contactless payments when you have the Contactless Indicator on your card. Credit: Chase

How Contactless Credit Cards Work

Your credit likely gives you three different ways to pay for in-store purchases:

  • Contactless Near Field Communication (NFC) payments
  • EMV chip
  • Magnetic strip

A few years ago, the craze was having a card with an EMV chip on the front of the card. Chip payments are more secure than sliding the magnetic strip on the back of your card. Except for a few small merchants with an older Square reader or gas station pumps, most stores and restaurants take EMV chip payments are near-universal.

Contactless payments can be as secure as EMV chip payments as neither transaction uses your unsecured personal information like sliding your magnetic strip. You hold the card approximately one or two inches above the reader to complete the purchase. You might still touch the screen to leave a tip or request a receipt.

Today, more merchants are installing credit card readers that accept contactless payments. If you see a card reader with a logo having four echo signals, it most likely accepts contactless payments from your credit card and digital wallet apps, such as Apple Pay. You can simply hold your card above the reader to pay for purchases.

For now, you can see if your favorite stores and restaurants accept contactless payments. Some of the largest brands to accept this payment method include McDonald’s and Whole Foods.

Many of the best rewards credit cards now have contactless capability (like these best contactless credit cards). If your card expires soon and doesn’t have contactless capability, your new card most likely will.

Personal credit cards are more likely to be contactless, but more small business credit cards have this perk.

Are Contactless Payments Necessary?

Having a contactless card gives you another payment option. Contactless payments are very common as people hover their card or use a digital payment app. In the United States, we recently adopted the EMV chip technology that many other countries have been using for a couple of decades.

You can either pay contactless or dip your EMV chip to complete a purchase and earn rewards. To boost the new payment method, some credit cards may offer bonuses if you make a contactless purchase. However, these bonuses are less common in 2020 than a year or two ago when contactless credit cards were rare.

Currently, there isn’t a U.S. federal requirement for all cards to be contactless or for merchants to accept contactless payments by a certain date. We might see a “liability shift” at some point where merchants are responsible for fraudulent purchases if they don’t accept contactless payments.

Interestingly, most countries have spending limits for contactless payments. This can be a problem if you travel overseas. There no longer appears to be a spending limit for U.S.-based contactless purchases, but large purchases may still require your signature. The previous transaction limit was $100 in the United States.

Mobile Wallet Payments

Another “tap to pay” option is linking your cards to a mobile wallet like Apple Pay or Google Pay. You select your payment card in the app and hold your phone above the contactless card reader.

Most credit cards are digital wallet-compatible, even those that only have an EMV chip. Paying with your phone can be more secure as you’re not carrying your physical card.

Banks with Contactless Credit Cards

Most national banks now offer contactless payments for most of their credit card lineup. Personal credit cards are more likely to be contactless than small business credit cards. You will see a contactless indicator on the card details.

Many of these credit cards are perfect for everyday spending.

American Express

American Express states that “a majority of Consumer Credit products and on select Small Business Card products.”

Some of the American Express credit cards with contactless indicators include:

Chase

Most Chase Visa credit cards are contactless for personal and small business spending. You can earn Ultimate Rewards or travel rewards with your contactless purchases.

However, the IHG Rewards Club Mastercard products (the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card and the IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card) do not have contactless payment capability yet.

These are some of the Chase Visa contactless credit cards:

Related: Best Chase Credit Cards

Capital One

Most personal Capital One credit cards are contactless. As a sidenote, Capital One states that merchants may require a signature for contactless purchases larger than $50. Most banks don’t mention payment thresholds in their contactless payment FAQs.

Related: Best Capital One Credit Cards

Citibank

You can expect the Citi credit cards that earn ThankYou points and American Airlines miles to be contactless. The up to 2% cash back Citi® Double Cash Card makes the list as well (cardholders earn 1% back when they buy, and the other 1% back when they pay for the purchase). Some of the other co-brand cards may not.

Consider these Citi credit cards first for contactless payments:

Related: Best Citi Credit Cards

Discover

The various Discover it rewards card cards are contactless. The first contactless versions have been around since December 2019. You may need to provide a signature on purchases above $100.

RelatedThe Best Discover Credit Cards

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo offers consumer contactless credit cards but not small business cards. One card with an exciting bonus offer is the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card. You earn 1.8% back on qualifying digital wallet payments during the first 12 months. Your other Cash Wise purchases earn 1.5% back.

Related: Best Wells Fargo Credit Card

Summary

Most personal credit cards that earn rewards are contactless. There are a few exceptions, of course. Contactless payment technology won’t be disappearing as we continue to practice social distancing for those unavoidable local purchases.

FAQs

How do I get a contactless credit card?

If you’re an existing cardholder, you will receive a contactless replacement card when your current card expires. Banks can also send you a contactless card if you request one.

You can also apply for a new contactless credit card if you don’t have one already. Before applying, see if the card details list contactless technology or show a contactless indicator on the card image. If you don’t see either of these details, ask the bank customer service to verify the card can make contactless payments.

Do contactless purchases earn rewards?

You earn the same amount of purchase rewards if you pay for purchase with contactless, EMV chip, or sliding the magnetic strip. Some credit cards might run limited-time promotions to earn bonus points for contactless and digital wallet payments.

Check out the latest credit card offers to learn more. Many options are available and they may not be as hard to reach as you might think.

For instance, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® currently has a bonus that is easy to earn. New cardholders earn a $200 bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. And earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

Cardholders also earn unlimited:

  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3% cash back at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 1.5% cash back on all other purchases

There is no annual fee to worry about either.

Is a contactless credit card safe?

Yes, contactless payments are safe and qualify for fraud protection benefits. You hold your card one or two inches above the merchant’s card reader for a few seconds. The odds of someone skimming your card details or personal information while paying are slim.

You may consider using an RFID-blocking wallet for extra peace of mind to prevent skimming in public places.

Note that your card details can still be compromised through online data breaches when you make online purchases. All of these purchases are normally covered by your credit cards’ fraud protection benefits.

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Josh Patoka
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