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What’s a Contactless Card, Where to Get One and How to Use it

What’s a Contactless Card, Where to Get One and How to Use it

*Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

This article was last updated May 14, 2020. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

Since the advent of the coronavirus, merchants and customers alike have taken to contactless payments to reduce the possibility of spreading the virus at payment terminals.

Handing over cards to cashiers, tapping in PINs on keypads and touching or handling payment terminals in general provides just one more avenue for germs to cross-contaminate.

To avoid community spread, many Americans are finding that the tap-and-pay technology that they probably already had on their debit and credit cards is coming in very handy, but never thought to use it until recently.

How to tell if your card is contactless

The number of Americans who used a Visa contactless card or digital wallet grew from 25 million in November 2019 to 31 million by March 2020 — with an overall adoption rate increasing 150% since March 2019, according to recent statistics from Visa.

Viewed as the “clean way to pay,” contactless cards and the technology behind them have been around since chip cards were introduced in 2015 as retailers switched out their payment terminals to accommodate new chip cards from older magnetic stripe cards.

However, consumers had been slow to adopt contactless payments as they struggled to move away from swiping to “dipping” their new chip cards, until a new wave of adoptees discovered that a hands-free approach to paying could reduce the chances of transmission from germs that can cause diseases like COVID-19.

Read Best credit cards for grocery shopping

The easiest way to tell if your credit or debit card can be used contactlessly is if it has the following symbol on either the front or back of the back of the card:

How to get a contactless card

If your card is older or hasn’t been renewed in the past several years, it may not have contactless capabilities, and the contactless symbol is not visible anywhere on the card.

In that case, call your card issuer or go to your card’s online portal to request a replacement card. If you’re not sure your lending institution offers contactless cards, you can always call the number on the back of the card to find out before ordering a replacement card. Know that both credit and debit cards can have contactless capabilities.

Given that the average American carries around multiple cards in their wallets, the odds of at least one being contactless are high. For example, Chase lists 23 cards that are contactless, including the Chase Freedom®Chase Freedom Unlimited®Amazon Prime Rewards Visa CardBritish Airways Visa Signature® CardChase Sapphire Preferred® CardChase Sapphire Reserve® and Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card, to name a few.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

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(219)
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on Chase's secure site

  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases

  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your 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.

  • 14.99% - 23.74% Variable

Highlights
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open

See additional details for Chase Freedom Unlimited®

More Info

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

  • One Year Complimentary Lyft Pink ($199 minimum value). Complimentary DashPass subscription from DoorDash after activating by 12/31/21.

Highlights
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • One Year Complimentary Lyft Pink ($199 minimum value). Complimentary DashPass subscription from DoorDash after activating by 12/31/21.

See additional details for Chase Sapphire Reserve®

More Info

Quick note: When requesting a replacement card that can process contactless payments, don’t report your existing card as lost or stolen (unless it is, of course) as your old card will be disabled until a new card with a new number arrives in the mail. If you say your existing card is just damaged or worn out, or that you just want a replacement card with contactless capabilities, then you should be able to continue using your existing card until the new one arrives.

Read Best Cashback credit cards

How to use a contactless card

First, when you approach the cashier, you need to check the top of the payment terminal to see if it also has the same symbol as the one on your card. It should look something like this:

Then, you’ll pull your card out as usual, but instead of sliding the chip end of the card into the terminal, you’ll just wave it over the symbol on the payment terminal until you receive a prompt that says your payment is processing.

You can tap the card or just wave it within an inch of the terminal and your payment should go through. There’s no need to enter a PIN or sign anything, although if you use a contactless debit card, you’ll most likely have to use the keypad for your PIN. Once you see a notice, such as a check mark or green light, on the terminal screen that your payment is processing or has been successfully transmitted, you can return your card to your wallet.

Know that sometimes the technology is a bit quirky or a payment terminal may exhibit the contactless symbol, but doesn’t currently accept contactless payments. The cashier will either inform you to insert your card into the terminal in that case (or even swipe your card’s magnetic stripe) or ask you to try and wave or tap your card again.

Read Best credit cards for shopping online, streaming services and food delivery

Other benefits of contactless payments

The primary reason why chip cards were introduced was to cut down on credit card fraud. The chip in a contactless card produces a one-time code that doesn’t reveal your card account information and cannot be reproduced like the data that’s stored in the magnetic stripe. Plus, if you are traveling overseas, where chip and contactless cards are widely accepted, you’ll find making purchases much smoother than when U.S. cards just had magnetic stripes.

If you’re already familiar with using mobile payments, such as Apple Pay, Google Pay or even the Starbucks app, then you’ve probably already mastered contactless payments. But if you’re new to the process, know that after just a few tries, you’ll find how effortless — and germ-free — contactless payments can be.

The information related to the Chase Freedom®, Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Card, British Airways Visa Signature® Card, and the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card have been independently collected by CompareCards and have not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.


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