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Contactless payment limit increased to £100 – overview for small businesses

4-minute read

Contactless payment limit increased to £100 – overview for small businesses
Conor Shilling

Conor Shilling

20 October 2021

The maximum spending limit on each use of a contactless card was increased from £45 to £100 on 15 October 2021. However, it could take months for many small businesses to be able to offer the increased limit.

Read on to find out the challenges an increased contactless limit could pose for small businesses, from rising fraud and ‘contactless walk-offs’ to alienating customers who want to use cash.

Contactless limit rises to £100

Earlier this month, the Treasury and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) approved the decision to increase the contactless payment limit to £100. This followed a public consultation earlier this year.

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said the new limit would provide a boost to high streets after a series of lockdowns and pandemic restrictions. He added that it would also give shoppers more convenience.

It’s the second time the maximum contactless limit has been increased in the last two years, after it was raised from £30 to £45 in April 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite the popularity of contactless payments, many high street banks give customers the opportunity to request a non-contactless card or switch off the contactless function on their account.

Meanwhile, digital bank Starling and Lloyds Bank allow their customers to set their own contactless limit through online banking.

How will £100 contactless payments affect small businesses?

It could take months for some businesses to be able to offer a £100 contactless limit, according to the British Retail Consortium.

This is because there’s a huge number of payment terminals that need to be updated, and each business has to make changes in their own systems to be able to offer the increased limit.

Some of the other potential challenges facing small businesses include:

  • ’contactless walk-offs’ could increase – businesses could lose money as there’ll be increased opportunity for customers to tap their card and leave the shop thinking they’ve paid when in fact they need to verify the payment with their Pin
  • lost income if small businesses can’t offer the £100 contactless limit – if it takes months for some businesses to be able to offer the higher contactless limit, customers who want convenience could go elsewhere
  • moving away from cash could alienate some customers – if more businesses make the move towards solely accepting card payments, customers who want to use cash could be discouraged from spending with them

Contactless payments – the key figures

Contactless payments were first introduced in 2007 as an alternative to small change. However, the number of payments and maximum spend limit has increased rapidly in recent years as society moves away from cash.

According to UK Finance, seven per cent of all payments were made using contactless cards in 2016. This figure had increased to around 20 per cent by 2018 and 25 per cent by 2020.

It’s estimated that in the first half of 2021, around 60 per cent of UK card transactions were contactless, accounting for 6.6 billion payments with a value of over £80 billion.

This table shows how the maximum contactless payment has changed since 2007:

YearContactless limit
2007£10
2010£15
2012£20
2015£30
2020£45
2021£100

Does a higher contactless limit increase the risk of crime?

With the opportunity to spend up to £100 in one transaction without a Pin, there’s concern that pickpocketing and targeted theft of bank cards could increase.

UK Finance figures show that during the first six months of 2021, contactless fraud totalled £7.6 million.

The FCA says that £300 of contactless payments need to be made before the user of the card is asked for their Pin. This has increased from £130.

According to the FCA, there hasn’t been a ‘material increase in fraudulent transactions’ in countries where the maximum contactless limit is equivalent to £100, such as Canada and Singapore.

The regulatory body is calling on retailers to ‘have the tools in place’ to monitor fraudulent transactions, which could put more pressure on small business owners.

Are we moving towards a cashless society?

In recent years, the UK has been moving towards becoming a cashless society.

This shift has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, with official figures showing 13.7 million people led a ‘cashless life’ in 2020 while payments made using cash dropped by 35 per cent.

Some small businesses have stopped accepting cash as a result of the pandemic, but there are many that rely on cash payments from their customers to keep going.

According to FCA research, a higher number of consumers are finding it difficult to cope with fewer retailers accepting cash since March 2020.

However, it suggests that up to 80 per cent of small and medium-sized businesses are ‘very likely’ to still accept cash over the next five years.

Campaigning for cash

As cash circulation decreases, consumer watchdog Which? has launched a campaign called ‘Freedom to Pay’.

It’s aiming to stop free-to-use ATMs closing at such a rapid pace and change the law to guarantee that access to cash is protected.

Its petition, which is aimed at small business owners and those in rural and isolated communities, has over 180,000 signatures.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, the Post Office launched its own campaign called ’Save Our Cash’.

As well as supporting the estimated eight million adults who would struggle to survive without cash, the campaign is aiming to protect the 55 percent of cash-accepting small businesses that deposit cash weekly.

The Post Office is calling on the government to make access to cash a legal right, with a requirement on banks to make sure there’s continued local access for those who need it.

What are your concerns about the contactless payment limit rising to £100? Let us know in the comments below.

Photograph 1: pressmaster/stock.adobe.com

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