More than ever before, the UK is embracing cashless payment methods such as debit and credit cards, phones and online banking. Some of that boom can be attributed to contactless payments, a technology that lets you pay with a card, fob, smartphone or wearable just by waving it in front of a reader. No signature or pin code required. The only problem, until now, has been the £20 limit on individual transactions. It meant contactless was fine for smaller purchases, but useless for anything substantial like a family supermarket shop. But thankfully, that limit is being increased today to £30.
What is contactless again?
An ever-growing number of cards and devices support contactless payments. To find out if yours is compatible, look for the symbol -- it looks like four horizontal ripples -- or check with your device's manufacturer. Then, whenever you walk into a shop with a compatible point-of-sale terminal, you can take it out and hold it in front of the reader. An embedded chip in your card or device holds your account information, while an antenna picks up the small electromagnetic field emitted from the reader. This invisible signal turns your contactless card or device "on," and once the transaction has been completed, the terminal's screen should turn green to indicate that it's been successful.
Do I need to do anything now?
Nothing at all. Although, the new limit is being applied to terminals slowly as part of a new software update. That means, at least for the first few weeks, some stores will be limited to the old £20 restriction. It might sound obvious, but if you're unsure it's best to ask the cashier. And if it doesn't work, you can always revert back to cash or chip-and-pin.
What about Apple Pay?
Apple's payment service is, essentially, another form of contactless. That means it's subject to the same in-store restrictions -- so like your other cards and devices, it should support the new limit automatically. Once your favourite stores have had their terminals updated, you'll be able to walk in and pay as normal with your iPhone or Apple Watch.
Why does this matter?
In short, you can buy more stuff now without using cash or chip-and-pin. It should make the technology more convenient and applicable in our everyday lives, and also help stores to do business more efficiently. The downside? Any device that supports contactless will now look more attractive to thieves. As always, look after your personal belongings and if you think your card has been stolen, call your bank immediately to get it blocked.
[Images: Barclaycard/PA WIRE (Barclaycard/contactless top image); Getty Images/iStockphoto (contactless logo); Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images (Apple Pay)]