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The Wave-and-Go Nightmare – Can a Contactless Payment be Declined?

Here’s a scenario for you: you swipe your contactless over the card reader a couple of times, but the device says that the processing has been declined.

Let us guess – Is paying by contactless not working at all, since the transaction has been refused? At that moment you were pretty certain that there were money in your account, right?

Well, you were probably right. Believe it or not, there are some contactless payment rules you need to keep in mind for it to properly work.

Let’s jump straight to the point here.

Can a Contactless Settlement Be Declined Even If Your Card Works?

Being able to pay swiftly, comes at a cost and requires extra security measures. Even if your card is perfectly functional and there’s money in your account, your transaction might still not get through.

Here’s why your contactless payments will get declined:

For security reasons, you will occasionally have to confirm the ownership of your card when paying with contactless. Though the payment will appear as “declined” on the card reader, it is actually just written out this way. When this happens, you just have to re-authorise your contactless card, thus confirming your identity. To do so simply perform a Chip and PIN transaction and the contactless payment option will be unblocked.

As part of their precautionary measure policies, many banks such as HSBC, Santander, Halifax, Natwest, Nationwide and others will require the occasional chip & pin payment just to ensure the card is still with its original owner.

When Will Your Contactless Card Require a Chip & Pin Authorisation?

Have a peek at the occasions in which a contactless settlement gets declined:

  • Five or more Contactless Payments in a short period of time

If you make several contactless payments in a very short amount of time, your bank might view this as highly suspicious. To make sure someone hasn’t stolen your card they will need you to input your PIN one more time.

  • Payment on a Suspicious Device

If a certain store/card reading machine has received too many reports for being shady (for example many clients have reported it overcharging), you may be required to input your PIN manually just so your bank can verify that you were aware of the amount and consent to the payment.

  • Exceeded Limit for a Single Charge

This may be a common problem for those that like to shop big. If you’re paying an item costing more than £30, you will be required to input your PIN.

  • Payment in аn Unusual Location

If you’re usually paying with your contactless card, say, in London and suddenly your bank registers a payment attempt from Guildford, they will flag it as suspicious activity and a Chip & PIN verification will be required.

Allowed number of times that you can use a contactless card per day

Here’s how many times you can use a contactless card in a day before triggering its security defences:

You can use your contactless card unlimited times per day. However, due to contactless payment security reasons, most banks limit the amount of contactless transactions to five per day, before a Chip & PIN authorisation is required. This number may vary from bank to bank, but most will limit you to five.

How To Reduce the Risk of Transaction Denial

  • What if you are a card holder  

It’s actually simple – only use contactless payments for small sums, and not more than 5 times a day in a short period. Purchasing coffee, a snack or a small item is fine when you just want to wave and go, but for anything bigger than that you’re better off just using the chip.

If your contactless payments are repeatedly denied even after a Chip & PIN input, however, there’s either a problem with your card or a problem with the store. Perhaps a malfunction of sorts, or it has expired, or there’s an issue with your account. In that case, your best cause of action is to step outside and call your bank to learn what’s going on. Who knows, it may save you from a scam!

  • What if you are a merchant

Let’s find out how it looks like on the other side.

As a provider of cashless payments, myPOS clients are daily dealing with credit card readers, while selling their goods and services. As mentioned above, your customers might end up in a similar situation.

For more expensive purchases, for example, you might insert the customer’s card into the POS terminal to read the chip, instead of trying contactless first, in order to avoid any denial. If the transaction still gets rejected there is no need to panic, ask your customer to contact his/her bank, to pay with a different card or to pay in cash.

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