Walk into almost any retailer these days, and it’s obvious that tap and go payments are the new way to pay. For years we’ve been saying that contactless payments are “the wave of the future.” Well, the future is here, and we have the pandemic to thank for that.
“Tap and go payment is booming right now due to the pandemic. People are using contactless payments a tremendous amount right now. It’s taken huge increases because people don’t have to touch anything besides their own phone or their own card,” says Bill Hardekopf, Founder of LowCards.com.
“Even after we get through this time of being concerned about germs, I think we’ll continue with contactless payments. Once people get accustomed to something, they’ll stick with it,” says Beverly Harzog, credit card expert for U.S. World & News Report.
With that said, “there’s fear of the unknown,” Harzog says. “Consumers are wondering if it’s safe and secure.”
So, is it safe?
“If you have a contactless card, you can only use the contactless feature with a retailer or merchant who has a contactless terminal. You have to have both A and B in order for the transaction to go through,” explains Hardekopf. There are a lot of major credit card issuers that are now sending out contactless cards, and there are a lot more merchants who have the contactless terminals than ever before.
“Know that even though we use this phrase ‘tap and go,’ you don’t even have to tap it,” points out Harzog. “But know that your card has to be within an inch or two of the terminal for it to work. It’s easier than people are anticipating and it’s very secure. It’s very similar to the chip technology.”
When you use a contactless credit card, it’s pretty safe, assures Hardekopf. “When a contactless card is used, it gives off a one time security code that processes the transaction and can’t be used again. That way, a hacker can’t use that number over and over and over again, which can happen with a regular credit card.”
Of course “the only thing 100% safe would be not using your card. But I think people can feel pretty safe, especially if going with a major issuer,” reminds Harzog.
Mobile Apps & Phone Security
When it comes to mobile payment apps, remember they’re only as secure as your phone is.
Sometimes, with contactless cards, there’s a concern you’re going to accidentally pay for the person behind you. But that’s unlikely, says Harzog. “You’re not going to have a card an inch away from another person’s terminal. You don’t need to worry about that.”
So if your card is older, should you get an updated card with contactless features?
“You can, if you’d like to try it,” says Harzog. “But first, look at your own credit cards that you have already. If you see a couple of curved lines that look like a sound wave, that tells you your card can be used that way.”
“When your card hits its expiration date, and your issuer sends you a new card, it’ll likely be contactless. But if you don’t have one and want one, with most major issues you can ask and they will likely send you one,” says Hardekopf.
Eventually, we’re all going to have contactless cards. Whether you use the contactless feature or insert your card is going to be a personal preference, says Hardekopf. “But down the road, I predict that everyone is probably going to wave it. That’s probably how payments will be made. The pandemic — and eventually the memory of the pandemic — has created the preference not to touch things.”
Easier To Spend
Contactless payment is largely safe, easy, and convenient. But do contactless cards impact your spending (by making it easier to spend)? We know that the less time it takes to pay for something, the less you feel the loss of your cash.
“It depends on the individual,” says Harzog. “We’re talking about saving maybe a minute. There’s concern around reward cards in general, because studies show that people use the cards more often in order to get rewards. We’re always going to have some consumers that don’t have a budget in place and don’t understand credit that well. But contactless payment does not make that much of a difference in terms of speed and ease. The chip is already pretty fast. I don’t think going contactless is going to be any huge incentive for people to spend more.”
Whether you use a contactless card or a more old-fashioned type, just be sure you understand how credit works, recommends Harzog. “As long as you educate yourself about credit, have a budget in place, a way to track spending, and the foundation of good credit habits, this isn’t going to be a major switch for you. I think it’ll be a pleasant way to pay.”
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