But in October 2021, it became easier to spend money as the contactless limit for credit cards and debit cards was raised from £45 to £100.
While some banks allow you to restrict how much you can spend without putting in your pin, many do not.
So which financial institutions allow you to set a contactless cap below the new limit - and why do we have a contactless limit in the first place?
Here’s everything you need to know.
Why does a contactless limit exist for card payments?
While card spending limits can protect us from ourselves, their principal intention is to protect consumers from fraudsters.
Contactless is extremely helpful as it makes transactions quicker and more convenient.
During the Covid pandemic, it has also protected us from germs as it reduced the amount of keypads and cash we had to touch.
But this convenience is also shared by criminals, who can access our funds much more easily if they steal our cards or find them after we’ve dropped them.
While the rise in the contactless limit has been approved by regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) following a public consultation, it has led to concerns that it has left consumers more open to fraud.
For example, in autumn 2021 cyber security experts said they had discovered a flaw in Apple Pay’s contactless system when it interacted with Visa cards - although Apple denied it was an active issue.
Banks and regulators insist there is nothing to be unduly concerned about with contactless limits.
However, it seems unlikely that they will rise again for the timebeing.
Which banks and providers don’t offer a contactless cap?
Not all banks or card providers allow for a contactless cap to be set.
Here’s the full list of providers which do not currently let customers set their own limit:
- American Express
- Capital One
According to Martin Lewis’s MoneySavingExpert site, Monzo, Nationwide and Santander are all considering adding contactless cap functionality to their products.
Meanwhile, Barclays has the option of setting spend limits across all transactions via its app.
As well as not offering a personal cap, American Express, Barclaycard, Capital One and HSBC also do not allow customers to switch off contactless.
The other banks and providers on the list allow for contactless to be turned off.
Most customers can do this in their banking app, online or over the phone.
Those that do might be sent a new non-contactless card.
The banks and providers that do offer a contactless cap
Of those that do offer the option of a cap, only digital bank Starling offers one on both debit and credit accounts.
Via its app, users can choose to impose a limit of between £10 and £90 or even stop contactless functionality entirely if they so wish.
Meanwhile, Bank of Scotland, Halifax, Lloyd’s Bank and MBNA brought in a cap option of betwen £30 and £95 late in 2021.
Their customers also have the option to switch contactless off completely, although they have to be registered for online banking to make the change.
What about mobile payments?
The likes of Apple Pay and Google Pay do not have an upper contactless limit when payment has been authenticated via biometric tech, for example a fingerprint scan.
But these transactions can in fact be limited by retailers and/or card providers.
What rules are in place to stop criminals?
There is a threshold in place that governs how much money you can spend using contactless before you have to verify your identity - something which could restrict a criminal should you lose your card or have it stolen.
The limit used to be £130 before October 2021, but is now £300.
Once card users hit this limit, or if they make more than five contactless payments in a row using the same card, they have to insert their card into the card machine and enter their chip and pin.
A chip and pin will also be required if you spend £300 but did not verify any of the payments.
While this is a lot of money, consumer site Which? has said contactless users should not be too concerned about fraud.
While the number of contactless payments made in the UK in 2020 increased by 12% to 9.6 billion payments, Which? found contactless fraud rates were low.
They equated to less than 2p in every £100 spent in early 2020.