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Financial Dictionary - Contactless cards

Contactless cards

Contactless payment is a technology that allows card payments using NFC (Near Field Communication), by establishing a wireless communication and data exchange practically instantaneously between two devices that are only a few centimetres apart.

NFC technology has been applied to both cards and POS terminals, so that the devices can communicate with each other by sending and receiving information in real time. This communication between the card and the sales terminal allows payment just by bringing the card close to the POS.

Contactless cards are credit, debit or prepaid cards that feature contactless technology. These cards can perform the same transactions as conventional cards.

How do I know if my card is contactless?

The vast majority of cards now have this technology. These cards display an easily recognisable identifying symbol on one side (four concentric waves).

Practically all banks now incorporate this technology into their cards, ATMs and POS systems.

The main advantages of contactless cards are:

  • You can make small purchases quickly, as you don't need to enter your PIN for payments under €20. This makes them very suitable for small purchases. The POS system will require your PIN if the amount is higher than this.
  • This technology is now integrated into practically all POS terminals. But if the terminal does not offer this or an error occurs, contactless cards also have a chip and magnetic strip with which you can pay in any business, regardless of the type of terminal.
  • There was a degree of distrust when this technology was introduced for paying without inserting a card and using a PIN (in purchases under €20). But this technology is very secure. Payments require a connected POS terminal with coverage. And the card must be within a maximum of 3 cm of the terminal for the card to be detected and the payment to be processed correctly.
  • As an additional security measure, you also need to insert your card every fourth time you make a payment of less than €20.
  • The development of technology over recent years has made multiple options available to users that increase the security and improve control of payments with their cards. Many entities now offer alert systems using applications such as SMS or email, with a notification whenever there is a card payment.


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