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Why might your contactless payments not work?

If you own a debit or credit card (and chances are rather high that you do), you’re likely to have made payments using the contactless method.

Contactless payments represent billions of transactions across Europe, and there are indications that this payment method is only set to rise by the end of the decade. However, there may be instances when you find that your contactless payment has not been accepted.

But what are the possible reasons behind contactless not working?

Let’s take a closer look.

How does a contactless payment work?

Contactless payments have become a preferred method for transactions due to their convenience and speed at the point of sale. This means no wasted time queuing and no need to carry cash or even a wallet, as the buyer can simply use the mobile device they have on hand.

The technology behind contactless payments is called Near-Field Communication (NFC). It enables the wireless transfer of data over short distances, which is what makes contactless cards, as well as e-wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay, function. 

Every modern mobile device, including phones, tablets, smartwatches, and laptops, can be used for a contactless transaction as long as it has NFC built in.

One of the biggest advantages of contactless payments is their ease of use.

Here is a breakdown of the whole process:

  1. The buyer presents their contactless credit/debit card or NFC-enabled device.
  2. They tap it on the card machine.
  3. The payment data is wirelessly transferred, the funds are deducted from the customer’s account, and the transaction is completed.

Why is my contactless card not working?

There can be many reasons why your contactless card is not working. Sometimes, your card will be declined regardless of the payment method you use, while in other instances, only the contactless method will be problematic. 

We have explained everything you need to know below, including the likely causes and how you can fix them. Here are the top 7 most common reasons why your contactless is not working.

Insufficient funds

If your contactless card is not working, it might be because there are insufficient funds in your account. Often, the card machine you’re using will display a message indicating insufficient funds when you attempt to pay. However, that isn’t always the case, leaving you to wonder why your card is declined. 

Daily spending limit reached

Another reason could be that you’ve reached your personal daily spending limit. In this instance, you will simply be required to use the Chip & PIN transaction option for safety reasons.

In fact, according to the European payments directive, PSD2, you will be asked to enter your PIN when you make five consecutive contactless transactions or when your total single purchase amount exceeds £100 within a 24-hour cycle.

These limits are put in place by financial institutions to help you manage your funds more effectively and reduce fraud. 

Luckily, with myPOS, you can adjust your daily limits by simply opening your myPOS mobile app and changing the necessary settings.

The card is expired 

Check the expiration date on your card to ensure that it’s still active. While card companies typically send notifications before expiration, it’s possible you may have missed them. If your card is indeed expired, you will need to get a new one and use cash or another card in the meantime.

The card is not activated

If you’ve just received your new debit or credit card, you’ll need to activate it before use, usually by entering a Chip & PIN the first time. After activation, it should work smoothly. 

Activation procedures may vary depending on the card issuer, so it’s advisable to carefully follow the instructions provided with your new card.

Damaged card 

Debit and credit cards contain delicate technology that can be easily damaged by water, excess sunlight or other factors. They are relatively fragile, and that’s why it’s advisable to keep your card in a safe and secure place that’s out of reach of others. 

If your card is damaged, contact your card issuer for a replacement. Most financial institutions offer new cards free of charge, but it’s a good idea to confirm this.

Incompatible card machine

Sometimes the merchant’s card machine simply does not support the contactless payment method. Technical glitches can also hinder functionality, even if the device typically processes tap-to-pay transactions. Check whether the merchant accepts contactless payments beforehand to ensure compatibility before even trying to complete your purchase.

Outdated e-wallet version

If the problem occurs only when you’re attempting to pay with a digital wallet, it might be due to an outdated app version. Check the App Store or Google Play Store to see if updates are available, then proceed to install the latest version and try again.

Other reasons your card might be declined

There are a few additional causes of a declined card. While they may not be as common, it’s good to be aware of them in case none of the reasons mentioned above apply to your situation.

Here are a few less frequently encountered but nonetheless viable reasons why your card may not be working when you try to pay contactless:

The card is flagged for fraud

This can happen if somebody is trying to use your card details to process transactions abroad or if you’re travelling and using your card without notifying your bank. As a security measure, the issuer may recognise the transaction as fraudulent and freeze your account to prevent further card fraud. 

If this is the case, you can call the customer service of the bank, verify yourself and quickly sort it out.

Credit limit reached

This only applies if you use a credit card. The credit limit is usually based on your credit score and history, among other factors. When you reach this limit, your card will be declined. 

Depending on the bank you’re using, you might be able to request a credit limit increase. However, if you frequently reach this limit, you should definitely look into how you spend your money and avoid increasing your debt.

Past-due bill

If you’ve fallen behind on credit card payments, the card issuer may put a hold on any new purchases. Contact your credit card company to check if this is the reason for your declined card and find out how much you need to pay to reactivate it.

Large pending transaction

If you’ve recently given your card details to an enterprise such as a car rental or hotel, you may find that you’re unable to use your card immediately afterwards. This is because such companies often place a hold on your card as a precaution to ensure funds are available for potential charges or damages. This practice helps them cover any costs that may arise during your rental or stay.

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Stay aware and informed

Although it may be unpleasant to have your contactless payment declined, it is most likely the result of one of the situations we described above. 

There’s often a simple and logical reason for declined payments; you just need to be aware of its various possibilities.

In this blog post, we’ve covered some of the reasons why your contactless card might not be working in certain instances. Armed with these details, you can now make safer and more informed contactless purchases.

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