Covid-19: bank card contactless limit increased

The spending limit for contactless card payments will be increased from £30 to £45, with a national rollout beginning from 1 April, in response to growing pressure to reduce the use of paper money during the current pandemic, reports Pat Sweet

Industry body UK Finance said the decision to raise the limit was taken following consultation between the retail sector and the finance and payments industry and follows similar increases in several other European countries over the past week.

The changes were already under consideration, but the process has been expedited as part of the industry’s response to the covid-19 outbreak to support consumers who choose to pay using contactless at this time.

While the increased limit is scheduled to take effect from 1 April 2020, UK Finance warns that it will take some time to be introduced across all retailers, including some of those facing additional pressure due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Stephen Jones, CEO of UK Finance, said: ‘This will give more people the choice to opt for the speed and convenience of purchasing goods using their contactless card, helping to cut queues at the checkout.’

UK Finance figures indicate £80.5bn was spent on contactless payments in 2019, up 16% on the previous year. 

The body says contactless fraud on payment cards and devices remains low, with £20.6m of losses during 2019. This is equivalent to just 2.5p in every £100 spent using contactless technology.

Contactless fraud on payment cards and devices represents just 3.3% of overall card fraud losses, while 44% of all card transactions were contactless last year.

Fraud risk

UK Finance, the National Crime Agency, City of London Police, Home Office, HMRC, Serious Fraud Office, Financial Conduct Authority and other public and private sector organisations are warning of the increased risk of personal and business fraud during the current crisis.

In a joint campaign, they said criminals are targeting people looking to buy medical supplies online, sending emails offering fake medical support and scamming people who may be vulnerable or increasingly isolated at home.

Reports from the public have already included online shopping scams where people have ordered protective face masks, hand sanitiser, and other products, which have never arrived and a number of cases have been identified where fake testing kits have been offered for sale.

There are also reports of criminals using HMRC branding to make spurious offers of financial support through unsolicited emails, phone calls and text messages.

The campaign warns this situation is likely to continue, with criminals looking to exploit further consequences of the pandemic, such as exploiting financial concerns to ask for upfront fees for bogus loans, offering high-return investment scams, or targeting pensions.

The huge increases in the number of people working remotely mean that significantly more people will be vulnerable to computer service fraud. It is also anticipated that there will be a surge in phishing scams or calls claiming to be from government departments offering grants, tax rebates, or compensation.

Graeme Biggar, director general of the National Economic Crime Centre, said: ‘Criminals are exploiting the covid-19 pandemic to scam people in a variety of ways and this is only likely to increase. We need individuals and businesses to be fully aware and prepared.

‘We are working together across law enforcement, government and the private sector to combat this criminal activity and protect the public. If you think you have fallen for a scam contact your bank immediately and please report to Action Fraud.’

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