Coronavirus: What are the new contactless card rules and spending limit?

Move comes as more businesses become “cash-free” to help curb the virus from spreading

Sarah Young
Monday 20 April 2020 09:40 BST
Boris Johnson announces nationwide lockdown to tackle coronavirus

Supermarkets, pharmacies and convenience stores are introducing a number of new measures to help keep staff and customers as safe as possible following Boris Johnson’s decision to place the UK on lockdown.

While a number of retailers, including Morrisons and Aldi, have already put up perspex screens at checkouts and signage encouraging customers to carry out social distancing, the British Retail Consortium – the lead trade association in the UK – has taken things one step further by increasing the spending limit on contactless payments.

Here is everything you need to know about the changes, from when the limit is increasing to how much you can spend.

What are the new contactless rules and when will they start?

On Tuesday, the organisation announced that the contactless limit for in-store spending will be increased from £30 to £45 from 1 April.

Andrew Cregan, the British Retail Consortium’s head of payments policy, said: “The last contactless limit increase to £30 took two years to implement but, given the extraordinary circumstances we face today, this new £45 limit will be rolled out from next week.

“Some shops will take longer to make the necessary changes, given the strain they’re under.

"In the meantime, most customers can continue to make contactless payments for higher amounts using their smartphone.”

While the increase does not come into effect for another week, customers can already make contactless payments above £30 using their mobile phones by holding it over the contactless sign on the card reader.

Why has the limit been increased?

Stephen Jones, chief executive of UK Finance, which represents the finance and payments industry, said the decision to raise the limit was made following talks with the retail sector to “help customers with their shopping at this critical time for the country”.

“This will give more people the choice to opt for the speed and convenience of purchasing goods using their contactless card, helping to cut queues at the checkout.” Jones said.

Aldi and Morrisons have installed screens at the checkouts

“The industry continues to work closely with the government and regulators to support customers impacted by Covid-19 and ensure that they can pay in a way that suits them.”

The move follows calls from supermarkets for customers to use the card and contactless payment method where possible in order to reduce the amount of cash staff are handling.

Is it safe to handle cash?

Health authorities including the World Health Organisation (WHO) have advised shoppers to use cards instead of banknotes.

When asked whether or not using banknotes could spread coronavirus, a spokesperson for the WHO told The Telegraph: “Yes it’s possible and it’s a good question.

"We know that money changes hands frequently and can pick up all sorts of bacteria and viruses and things like that.”

The spokesperson added: “We would advise people to wash their hands after handling banknotes, and avoid touching their face.

“When possible it’s a good idea to use contactless payments.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Bank of England said that the bacteria on a banknote is no different to “any other surface”.

“Like any other surface that large numbers of people come into contact with, notes can carry bacteria or viruses,” they said.

“However, the risk posed by handling a polymer note is no greater than touching any other common surface, such as handrails, doorknobs or credit cards.”

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