How to recognize a contactless card and how payment works

The contactless method is fast and safe: how to recognize if your card is contactless and how payments work.

Contactless payments are the protagonists of 2020, both for the Covid-19 pandemic that requires distancing, and for the fight against tax evasion through tools such as Cashback introduced by the Italian government. But how to tell if one's card is contactless? And how do the payments work?

In order to answer these two questions, we must first understand what contactless means. With contactless we mean a payment method that allows to complete transactions without contact, that is, simply by bringing the card close to the POS: there will be no need to insert it in the terminal, nor to type the PIN on the keyboard. Contactless payment can be made through special apps on mobile devices, such as smartphones and wearable devices equipped with NFC technology, such as smartwatches, or with payment cards equipped with RFID technology.

Contactless card: how to recognize it

To make a contactless payment it is necessary to have a card that is able to apply the technology. In particular, contactless cards, whether they are credit, debit or prepaid, use Radio Frequency Identification technology, also known as RFID, which allows the transaction to be carried out without inserting it in the POS terminal but only by bringing it close to it.

To immediately recognize if a card is contactless, you can look for the appropriate symbol on its surface that indicates the type of functionality. Usually, it is a symbol consisting of increasing wavelets that starts from the chip of the card itself.

If your card is not contactless, you can use this type of payment using your smartphone or wearable device that are equipped with Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. By registering your payment cards in your phone, it will turn into an electronic wallet to be used for your payments.

Contactless payment: how it works

The operation of contactless payment is very simple. The merchant types the amount of the transaction on the POS terminal, then the enabled card is approached to the reader to create a protected communication channel of data, which are exchanged between the card and the terminal. Once the data has been confirmed and the card has been read, the terminal communicates that the payment has been made.

Usually, contactless payments for amounts of less than €50 (the new threshold is valid from 2021, previously it was €25) can be made without the need to enter one's PIN code to enable the transaction, while for payments of higher amounts the PIN is required for security reasons.

Contactless payments: are they safe?                                                           

Contactless payments are certainly fast, innovative and simple, but above all they are characterized by a high level of security. This is because data transmission is encrypted and transactions are subject to a daily limit, as well as a limit of 50 euros without the use of a PIN, and are recorded only once, avoiding the risk of double charging.