Woman paying with contactless credit card

What is a Contactless Credit Card?

Last Updated: January 25, 2023
6 min read

Key points about: contactless credit cards

  1. A contactless credit card allows you to make a secure transaction without swiping or inserting your chip.

  2. If you see the contactless symbol on the back of your payment card and on the payment reader, you can tap to pay.

  3. Contactless pay is widely accepted, but you can swipe or insert your contactless chip card when needed.

If you’ve ever seen someone pay for their morning coffee with a simple tap of their credit card, you likely understand the appeal of contactless pay. Paying with a quick tap, instead of using a chip reader or swiping through, seems so seamless and easy. But is it as secure as it is convenient? Read along for everything you need to know about contactless credit cards.

How do you use your contactless card?

A contactless credit card is a quick and easy method to pay for purchases. Since not all retailers offer contactless options, you can still pay via chip or swipe with a contactless card. If a retailer does offer contactless transaction options—which you’ll know by asking the merchant or seeing the EMVCo Contactless Symbol on the credit card reader—you can simply tap your card, wait for confirmation and be on your way.

To use this type of card, look for the EMVCo Contactless Symbol—it resembles the wireless internet symbol rotated clockwise—on the back of your credit card. If you hold this type of card over a contactless reader for two or three seconds, the transaction should get approved, then payment should go through, and you’ll be on your way.

What is a contactless Discover card?

Discover began rolling out contactless credit cards in the fall of 2019. Now, you can tap any Discover card with the contactless symbol at participating terminals for a quick checkout. While this is an option for many cards across its product line, contactless cards are not available for all Discover credit cards.

If you have a Discover card and want to know if it has tap-to-pay capabilities, just look for that EMVCo Contactless Indicator—consisting of four semi-circles that grow bigger from left to right—on the back of your card.

How can you request contactless cards?

If you don’t see an EMVCo Contactless Symbol on your credit card, you can usually request a contactless product in your credit card issuer’s online account portal. With Discover, for instance, you can do so here.

As contactless technology has become mainstream, more credit card issuers are automatically sending out cards with an option for contactless payment. If you haven’t received one yet, reach out to your credit card issuer to ask about options, and see if it’s possible to get a new card with contactless technology.

Are contactless credit cards just as secure as inserting your card?

Adopting a new type of technology can raise questions about security. Are these contactless payments safe?

In short: yes. Tap-to-pay transactions use Near Field Communication (NFC). These payments don’t require a physical connection between your device and the participating merchant’s checkout terminal to complete a purchase.

When it comes to credit card security, you should know that a contactless credit card provides the same level of security you’re used to receiving with chip card payment options, meaning you’re no more or less susceptible to credit card fraud and identity theft.

In some cases—perhaps if a charge is above a certain dollar threshold—merchants may ask for a signature as an additional verification method. As always, it’s a good idea to check your statements carefully to make sure there’s no unusual activity.Depending on the merchant, you may need to sign for larger purchases—often anything more than $100.

If you request a contactless Discover card, will your account information change?

You don’t need to open up a new account to take advantage of contactless technology and, depending on your credit card issuer, you can probably request a contactless card without impacting your credit score. If the option is available, your card will be issued with the same number and CVV code. But not all credit cards include contactless options, so it’s best to check in and ask your credit card issuer.

If you request a contactless Discover card, is contactless your only payment option?

Nope. Just because your Discover card has contactless payment doesn’t mean you have to use it. Depending on the type of payment terminal, you can also insert your chip into the card reader, swipe, or pay with a digital wallet.

Not all merchants have contactless card readers. If cashiers or payment terminals indicate you should use your chip or swipe, then you should do so—even if you have a contactless credit card.

If your credit card transaction is declined, the merchant will typically give you the option of paying via chip or swipe. If the card transaction is still declined, there may be a problem with your card.

Keep in mind that you can also link contactless credit cards (or even a debit card without a contactless feature) to a digital wallet on your smartphone—using Google Pay or Samsung Pay for Androids, and Apple Pay for iOS devices. This way, you’re tapping to pay with your mobile wallet instead of your physical card. Make sure you know where that card is at all times to protect yourself.

If you suspect your card has been lost or stolen, or you think someone else may have accessed your credit card information, alert your credit card company immediately to get a replacement card.

Where can you tap to pay with your contactless Discover card?

Did you know?

Shops, restaurants, and public transportation systems, among other places, offer contactless card readers, so you’ll likely have many ways to use your contactless credit card throughout your day. Wherever you are, look for the contactless symbol on the payment terminal during checkout. This resembles the EMVCo Contactless Indicator on your card, but it’s surrounded by an oval key-line and also has a symbol of a hand holding a card.

Can a contactless Discover card be used for online or over-the-phone purchases?

Yes. Contactless credit cards are just like normal credit cards, complete with a 16-digit card number, expiration date, and CVV code. This is to say, you can use them like you would for any credit card purchase, including online and over-the-phone transactions.

As with any card, contactless options still leave you eligible to earn credit card rewards for your purchases, which will show up on your monthly statement. These cards will also have specified terms for a balance transfer, your annual fee, and more.

How do you make sure your charges are going to your contactless Discover card, and not your other cards?

Contactless payment systems are a simple way to pay on the go, but it’s possible for contactless technology to pick up and “read” a nearby credit card. That’s why it’s important to make sure that only the contactless card you’d like to use is close to the reader when it comes time to pay.

That said, the contactless payment method only works if your card is very close to the reader, meaning you don’t have to worry about accidentally paying for someone who’s standing ahead of you. But the technology could be triggered if you keep the contactless card along with other credit cards in a wallet that you hold to the reader. Being mindful of your contactless cards can help ensure that you’re using only the card you mean to select.

Can you use your contactless Discover card on transit?

Many major transit systems across the U.S. accept Discover’s contactless credit cards. This includes the Metropolitan Transit Authority in New York City, Dallas DART, and Portland TriMet. Contactless payment options are also in use in other parts of the U.S. and worldwide, in part because they give riders a quicker, more sanitary commuting option.


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