Woman paying with contactless credit card

Tap and Pay: Everything You Should Know About Contactless Credit Cards

Last Updated: May 24, 2022
7 min read

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 a contactless payment. Paying with a quick tap, instead of having to use 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 payment options—which you’ll know by asking the merchant or seeing the EMVCo Contactless Symbol1 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 Indicator—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 check out. While this is an option for many cards across its product line, contactless cards are not available for every type Discover credit card.

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.

Customer uses contactless credit card on a card reader
It”u2019s a portable point of sale

How can you request a contactless card?

If you don’t see an EMVCo Contactless Indicator 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). To complete a purchase, these payments do not require a physical connection between your device and the participating merchant’s checkout terminal.

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 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.

If you tap and pay, will you need to touch the keypad or sign for your purchase?

For smaller, everyday purchases, contactless credit cards let you tap and buy, without a payment machine. 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 cards include contactless options, so it’s best to check in and ask with your credit card issuer.

If you request a contactless Discover card, is using contactless your only option to pay?

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 will 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. Contact your credit card issuer to troubleshoot the issue.

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 device instead of your physical card. Just make you know where that card is at all times, to keep yourself protected.

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

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

Shops, restaurants, and public transportation systems, among other places, offer contactless card readers, so it’s likely you’ll 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 number, expiration date, and CVV code. This to say, you can use them like you would 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, contactless payment systems only work 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 buying a latte. 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 for a particular purchase.

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.

What if your contactless Discover card isn’t working at your transit station?

Not every transit system, station, or payment terminal has contactless capabilities. No matter where you are, look for the EMVCo Contactless Indicator mark on the payment terminal before trying to tap and pay. If you can’t see it, you likely have to swipe or insert your chip. If you do see it in transit, but the contactless method isn’t working, either swipe or insert your card or contact a station agent to see if they can help you troubleshoot.

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