What is Contactless Payment?

“Contactless Payment” refers to a no-touch from of payment using a credit, debit or gift card on a point-of-sale system equipped with the adequate technology. Contactless – equipped cards use radio frequency identifications (RFID) technology and near-field communication (NFC) to process transactions where possible.

EMV is a common standard used by major credit card and smartphone companies for use in general commerce. Contactless smart cards that function as stored-value cards are becoming popular for use as transit system farecards, such as the Oyster card or RioCard. These can often store non-currency value (such as monthly passes), in additional to fare value purchased with cash or electronic payment.


A newer approach to smart card technology is achieved by linking a smart card to a hardware device, such as through the Apple Pay application on an iPhone mobile phone, thereby allowing mobile devices the ability to make payments using RFID technology against a payment terminal on behalf of a smart card using a token generated by the card issuer, a process known as tokenisation. A Device Account Number (DAN) similar to a Private Account Number (PAN) in traditional payment stripe and chip cards, is generated along with a private key and sent to the card issuer during initial setup of the smart card on the hardware device. When payments are made via the respective approved application on the hardware device the DAN and relevant details such as expiry date and CVV are sent to the card issuer via a payment terminal for cryptography where the associated private key is then used to authorise the transaction.

Depending on the economic space, there may be a payment limit on single transactions without the need to input the PIN, and some contactless cards can only be used a certain number of times before customers are asked for their PIN. Contactless debit and credit transactions use the same chip and PIN network as older cards and are protected by the same fraud guarantees. Where PIN is supported, the contactless part of the card may remain non-functional until a standard chip and PIN transaction has been executed. This provides some verification that the card was delivered to the actual cardholder.