Christmas is getting closer every day. It is a time for giving, which means that it is a time for spending too. Many of us will be using our credit cards.
If we set ourselves a Christmas budget and stick to it, we can be in control of our cards, rather than the other way around. But in the last year or so, your credit and debit cards have started to present a new danger.
The Contactless revolution
Contactless payment systems use radio frequency identification (RFID) or near field communication (NFC) to allow instant electronic payment. An embedded chip lets you touch your card, fob, or smartphone to a reader at the checkout, and some experimental types have even had the chip inserted under their skin to let them pay with a wave of the hand.
Contactless payments have become more popular than chip-and-pin, according to payment processing company Worldpay. But if you are going to be using contactless this Christmas, can you be sure that it is safe?
Is contactless secure?
According to the UK Cards Association the number of contactless cards has doubled from 59 million in the UK in 2015 to 119 million by December 2017. But fraud has also increased.
Most fraud happens when a card is stolen. The thief can make contactless purchases in the time between the theft and the card being reported missing and being blocked by the bank.
This is a risk – but it is no worse than the risk of carrying cash, and banks are required to cover customers’ losses under the Banking Code. So if a card is lost or stolen, you are protected, but you should report it to your card issuer as soon as possible.
But while this is the only problem the card industry will readily admit to, there may be others.
Make sure you use the right card
Problems arise if the wrong card is scanned, leading to unexpected charges. It’s therefore always a good idea to take the contactless card out of a wallet to touch the reader.
Beware phantom charges
Some people find they have been charged twice, because they accidentally triggered a contactless payment when they had intended to pay by chip and pin.
Beware of putting your cards close to the scanner. Some retailers may not have set up their tills properly and may accidentally take contactless payments when someone also pays by chip and pin. Your card provider should be able to sort this out.
Don’t get skimmed
Card skimming can occur in restaurants and bars. Waiters can skim the card while processing a legitimate payment with devices hidden in sleeves, towels and aprons.
The retailer should never handle your card or take it out of your sight. That includes tapping it for you. Insist on doing it yourself, and don’t let go of the card.
What about walk-bys?
There is some evidence that walk-by skimming can also take place.
With the right device, criminals can walk by you and skim your cards while they are in your pocket or purse. They will either grab £30 from your account, or the details of your card to use later on. They have to get quite close, so crowded Christmas shops might be the ideal opportunity.
theukcardassociation.org.uk – What are Contactless card payments?