indicatorAdvice for Albertans during the COVID-19 pandemic

Contactless payments trending high for safety and convenience

By ATB Financial 10 July 2020 4 min read

The option for touchless payments is rapidly becoming a must-have during these COVID-19 times as many of us look for ways to minimize contact with, well, pretty much any surface.

During the first two months of 2020, contactless transactions doubled globally in the grocery and drug store categories, according to Mastercard®. And, almost 80 per cent of the more than 17,000 people polled said they had moved to touchless payments, driven by safety and cleanliness concerns over handling cash or sharing public devices.

That sounds about right in this new world.

Now add the timeless draw of being both convenient, secure and quick. Instead of inputting your personal information at checkout and waiting for a transaction to clear, all you have to do is tap your card or wave your mobile pay device (Apple, Google or other app) over the terminal and you’re ready to go.

Whether you’re settling your bill at the bike shop, picking up a pizza or placing an order for curbside delivery, contactless payments save you time and worry.

If you’re new to touchless payments, we're here to walk you through some of the most common questions people have about the technology.


What’s the technology behind contactless payments?

Contactless credit and bank cards are embedded with chips that emit radio frequency waves (neither humans nor animals can sense them, in case you’re wondering). When tapped on a payment terminal, the signal is picked up, the terminal “communicates” with the card and processes the payment.


How safe are contactless payments?

Contactless transactions are authenticated by your card and bank, making them extremely difficult to hack. As well, your data is encrypted and always changing—every transaction has a different code, every single time.

In comparison, the information on magnetic strip cards, which have been around for decades, doesn’t change. That makes it easier for criminals to “lift” your data and clone the card.

Safety tip: Your information is more likely to be hacked by using public, unsecured Wi-Fi. Typically on your computer or mobile device you will see a little “padlock” icon that denotes secure Wi-Fi, or it may say on your computer the connection is “secured”. These connections typically require some type of password or verification.

Connect to secure networks when making any online transactions and never access your personal bank accounts or sensitive personal data on unsecured networks.

If you’re using public Wi-Fi (often free networks can be unsecured), make sure to turn off automatic connectivity in your settings to avoid becoming a target for cyber criminals.


How much can I tap and go?

It used to be that you were limited to $100 per transaction, but since the use of tap and go has skyrocketed, most credit cards and Interac™ debit cards have increased it to $250 per transaction.


Can I accidentally pay twice for something?

The technology used means each transaction takes place in milli-seconds, and with individual codes, which guards against duplicating payments.


Could I wind up paying for someone else’s things?

No. The radio frequency signals are tiny, that’s why you have to be on top of the terminal to have a transaction go through. A person’s card would have to rub elbows with your card for that to happen.

Also if you’re using some type of mobile pay technology, there is usually a button or face ID required to unlock to pay, providing yet another layer of security.


Why doesn’t my credit card let me use contactless payments?

For contactless transactions to work, there has to be a meeting of the minds: the credit card issuer and the merchant have to allow contactless payments. Many card issuers have made the transition automatic, but some require you to specifically authorize touchless transactions. And, some merchants need to contact their processors to turn on the contactless payment function on their terminal device.


What happens if someone steals my card?

You can use contactless payment cards with confidence. Not only are you protected from fraudulent transactions by the issuer of the credit card, but the merchant is, too. If you believe your card has been stolen, the most important thing to do is contact your financial institution as soon as possible.

Most card issuers will connect with you if they see a bunch of irregular activity on your card, but it’s also good to make a habit of checking your account on a regular basis.

Another important tip is to always keep your card in hand and never lose sight of it by handing it off to someone who takes it out of your sight.


Life has changed in many ways because of the pandemic, including the way you shop. But as we roll into a transformed environment, you can count on ATB to support you and meet your evolving needs.

To discuss your options for contactless payments, please reach out to our Client Care team at 1-800-332-8383 or visit your local branch. 

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