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Coronavirus: Contactless spending limit increased to fight pandemic

Banking and financial services trade body UK Finance to increase spending limit for contactless payments to £45 from the start of April

UK Finance, in close collaboration with retailers, has increased the spending limit for contactless payments to help in the fight against the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

The banking and financial services trade body said the spending limit for contactless payments would be increased to £45 from the start of April, up from the current £30.

The move was decided after consultation between banks and retailers, and mirrors similar initiatives in other European countries.

UK Finance said an increase in the contactless payment limit was already under consideration by the industry, but “the process has been expedited as part of the industry’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak to support consumers who choose to pay using contactless at this time”.

The exchanging of cash could transmit the virus to multiple people, and cash payments often take longer at checkout which in turn creates queues and crowds of people, creating an environment for the virus to spread. Groups of more than two people are currently being broken up by police in the fight against Covid-19.

Stephen Jones, CEO of UK Finance, said the payments industry has been working closely with retailers to be able to increase the contactless payment limit.

“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,” he added. “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 increase was introduced quickly to increase its effect.

Andrew Cregan, head of payments policy at the British Retail Consortium, said the last contactless limit increase to £30 took two years to implement, but given the extraordinary circumstances we face today, this new 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,” he said.

£80.5bn was spent on contactless payments in 2019, the latest UK Finance figures revealed, up 16% on the previous year. 

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