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How to use mobile contactless payments

Gone are the days of coins clinking in your pocket, and wads of notes stuffed inside your wallet. Bank cards and mobile payment have taken the front seat, replacing the need to carry loads of cash around with you. In this guide you’ll learn all about mobile contactless payments, including what they are, how safe they are, and where you can use them.

Last updated: 21st Dec 2020 at 1:58pm

What is mobile contactless pay?

Contactless payment is a quick and easy way of purchasing items. All you need to do is simply hover your mobile phone (with the payment app installed and open) or smartwatch over a payment terminal. The transaction between your device and the NFC-enabled terminal will then register a payment has been made, and the sum will be deducted from whichever bank account is connected to your payment app. 

While contactless credit and debit cards were introduced in September, 2007, payment by phone was actually first available in 1997 when Coca Cola allowed people to pay via an SMS message. Despite this early attempt at mobile payments, the concept wasn’t fully explored until smartphones and apps dominated the market. 

Most phone developers have their own version of mobile pay - Google Pay for Android users, Apple Pay for iPhones, Samsung Pay for Samsung devices. There are also third-party apps such as PayPal which lets you pay remotely. It doesn’t matter what mobile network you’re on, or what data plan or deal you have. 

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What is a mobile wallet?

A mobile wallet is a virtual wallet on your device which stores your debit and credit card details. It is, essentially, an online version of the wallet in your pocket, and allows you to make payments via your phone. 


How do I set a mobile wallet up?

To set up your mobile wallet, you first need to install the payment app that is compatible with your mobile device. So for iPhones, that’s Apple Pay; for Samsung, it’s Samsung Pay; and for other Android mobiles, it’s Google Pay. PayPal is compatible with most mobile phones. 

After installing the right payment application for your phone, you need to link a card of your choice to your mobile wallet. You can usually either enter your card details manually, or take a picture to upload the details. Remember that every contactless mobile payment will only deduct money from the account you have set up, so make sure there are sufficient funds. 

Your bank may try to verify that you’re the one pairing the card with your phone - this could be through a text, email, or phone call. Once this is confirmed, your card will be connected to your phone and you can start making mobile payments. 


Are mobile payments safe?

Your card details are fully encrypted on your phone, and are not stored anywhere else. Mobile payments are just as secure as any other type of contactless transaction. 

If you’re worried about anyone having access to your details, you can set up a PIN number, fingerprint technology, or facial recognition to be required before you pay for something. This means that no one else can use the mobile payment app, keeping your money safe even if your phone is lost or stolen

For more tips on smartphone security, find out how to stay safe online and how to secure your personal data


Where can I use contactless payments?

You should be able to use your mobile app for contactless payments at any place which allows contactless card payments. 

However, you should note that there is sometimes a limit on how much you can spend in each transaction for the separate mobile payment apps. 

  • Apple Pay is limitless at most locations, but sometimes will be capped at £45 depending on the retailer. 
  • Samsung Pay allows you to spend above £30 only at some retailers.
  • Google Pay has no set limit, but some retailers may cap it at £30 or £45, like contactless card payments. 

If your mobile app refuses to pay, you will have to fall back on chip and pin with your actual card. This is why you should carry your card as a backup, at least until you know how much a particular retailer allows you to spend. 

Mobile payments can also be used online. Instead of entering your card or PayPal details at checkout, your phone might ask you to authenticate your payment using your fingerprint or face. 


Does my phone support mobile payments?

Most recent smartphones will be compatible with this technology, as long as they’re NFC-enabled. A simple search of your phone model will answer your question, but we’ve provided a quick summary here:

Apple Pay: iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11, iPhone X, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone SE.

Google Pay: All NFC-enabled Android phones running on Android K or higher. 

Samsung Pay: Galaxy S10 5G, Galaxy S10+, Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10e, Galaxy Note10, Galaxy Note10+, Galaxy Note10+5G, Galaxy S9, Galaxy S9+, Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 edge, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 edge, Galaxy S6 edge+, Galaxy A70, Galaxy A50, Galaxy A40, Galaxy A20e, Galaxy A8, Galaxy A6, Galaxy A3, Galaxy A5 2017, Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2, Samsung Galaxy Watch Active, Galaxy Watch, Galaxy Watch 4G, Samsung Gear S3, Samsung Gear Sport. 


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