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In-store shopping is becoming more convenient thanks to contactless credit and debit cards. These cards function just like your current card — which you swipe or insert the chip — but you will now also have the option to tap your card at contactless-enabled terminals. The tap-and-go feature allows for a secure shopping experience with a checkout that is up to 10 times faster.

Contactless cards are becoming more prominent throughout the United States, and millions of merchant locations use contactless technology. Your favorite fast food restaurants, go-to grocery chains, and many other shops offer contactless payment options, with more integrating the technology into their systems every day. Target even announced in early 2019 that it would launch tap-and-go options at its 1,800 U.S. stores. To find out whether a business accepts contactless payments, look for the universal contactless icon on the checkout device.

How Do Contactless Cards Work?

Contactless cards operate based on near-field communication (NFC) technology. They're designed with chips and radio-frequency identification (RFID) antennas that transmit data via radio waves. When a customer wants to make a purchase, they tap a credit or debit card against the payment terminal, and the relevant information is sent to the chip terminal.

If the idea of tapping your credit or debit card instead of swiping or inserting sounds unfamiliar, you're not alone. Contactless cards have been slower to catch on in the U.S. than in other parts of the world. Australia, the U.K., and Canada are the global leaders in contactless adoption. But U.S. banks and legislators are now embracing the technology, according to Quartz, and it will become even more prevalent in the next several years.

The London research firm RBR projects that global card expenditures will hit $45 trillion by 2023 because of contactless card technology. The more easily people can buy small products such as snacks, drinks, and convenience items with contactless, the more the technology's impact will increase.

Contactless Card Security

The main concern consumers have about contactless cards is whether they guarantee a secure shopping experience. Some say they prefer more familiar purchase methods, such as inserting their chip cards into payment terminals.

Unfortunately, familiarity doesn't always equate to safety. Thieves can now use "shimming" devices to copy information from chip cards. Shimming devices are small and thin, and often harder to detect than previous methods of card theft. However, KeyBank Mastercard holders are protected even in cases of fraud, thanks to the built-in zero liability benefit on their accounts.

Contactless cards offer alternatives to withdrawing cash and risking your card data being stolen via payment terminals. Because you're not inserting the card, you can pay with less fear of the card being copied. Additionally, only your card information and an identification code are sent; no personal information, including your name and zip code, is transmitted during the process. This matters because fraudsters often use personal information in identity theft schemes so the less exposed your data is, the lower your chances are of becoming a victim of fraud.

Built-in fraud protection ensures that you won't be liable even if a hacker does gain access to your account. There are protections in place for simple human error as well. Even if you accidentally tap twice while paying for a purchase, you'll only be charged once.

Contactless Means Convenience

In addition to more secure shopping experiences, contactless cards provide a new level of convenience for shopping.

Whether you're picking up groceries or paying for lunch, you'll be able to tap your card and be on your way in no time (a contactless transaction can take less than half a second.) As with any new payment method, there may be an adjustment period as you get used to tapping instead of swiping or inserting. But the goal of contactless cards is a better customer experience, and these cards will allow you to spend less time on check-out — and more time to focus on what's really important throughout your day.

This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting or legal advice.

By selecting any external link on, you will leave the KeyBank website and jump to an unaffiliated third party website that may offer a different privacy policy and level of security. The third party is responsible for website content and system availability. KeyBank does not offer, endorse, recommend or guarantee any product or service available on that entity's website.

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