a person holding a credit card and a phone

Contactless payment is one of the great joys of the modern world, but it’s always had a small flaw, via humble transaction limits. Originally launched in 2007, ‘contactless’ revolutionized paying with a credit or debit card by creating a safer solution which halved the processing time with just a wave or tap of the card.

Most importantly – it meant no touching machines others have touched, no entering pins, just a fast, easy and sterile transaction. Sounds useful right now, right?

It cut the average transaction time from 30 seconds to 17 seconds, but with contactless limits often maxing out in the low double digits, too many transactions in recent months were still forcing people to potentially compromise their health by whipping out their actual payment card and running it through the machine..

That’s finally changing.

a close up of a credit card readerThe unprecedented virus gripping the world right now has caused more sadness and frustration than anything ever should, but even then – it may have positive societal impacts in the future.

One silver lining that’s spreading quickly is a rise in the limits imposed on contactless payments around the world. People in stores everywhere are finally able to spend more without touching the dreaded machine, with average limits being doubled.

Unfortunately, it’s still ultimately down to the merchant and their technology, or lack thereof.

The UK went from £30 to £45, and most of Europe has followed suit with similar changes. Similar increases are expected in the USA, where limits are currently set at $100 and beyond. Even where limits haven’t been increased, there’s been an unprecedented on-boarding of new terminals which allow contactless, including US grocery stores.

Of course, Google Pay and Apple Pay on your phone generally offer higher limits with the same “wave it near the machine” mechanism, but it’s important for those who haven’t embraced the mobile phone payment resolution.

apple credit cardIt’s not uncommon for retailers, grocers and other merchants to let Google Pay and Apple Pay go uncapped yet keep contactless limits in place on physical card transactions. Why? This is generally due to the risk that Apple and Google are willing to assume, because of the security features each of their platforms provide.

Google Pay creates an artificial credit card number to cloak and protect your actual card number.

The world is quickly realizing that in the prevention of spreading germs, anything that avoids touch is good and fraud rates on contactless payments remains incredibly low. As social distancing becomes an increasingly important societal concept globally, shoppers are strongly advised to use contactless payment options for the safety of workers and themselves.

You should still wash your hands when you get home, but not touching a card machine hundreds, if not thousands have touched goes a long way in keeping safe. It’s good for you, and everyone too.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Thanks for the news about contactless payment limit increases! Do you think about your carbon footprint as you fly 200.000 miles a year? I’m finding lighter greenhouse gas emissions ways to travel as I can, such as electric cars powered primarily by solar charging and sail boats. –Cheers!

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