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What is a contactless credit card?

The majority of Americans use contactless payments like tap-to-pay credit cards and mobile wallets. Here's how to check if your card has the capability to go touch-free.

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Select’s editorial team works independently to review financial products and write articles we think our readers will find useful. We earn a commission from affiliate partners on many offers, but not all offers on Select are from affiliate partners.

If you've never used contactless payments before, you may want to start now to speed up your in-store checkout experience and maintain a clean credit card.

Contactless cards are gaining traction in the U.S. due to health and safety concerns from the coronavirus. Tapping your card helps you avoid touching a payment terminal compared to swiping or inserting your card.

While the majority (51%) of Americans use contactless payments, such as tap-to-pay credit cards and mobile wallets, you may not be aware whether your card has the ability to go touch-free.

Below, we review what you need to know about contactless cards, from checking if your card has the capability to its security features.

How to know if your card is contactless

Contactless cards have a wave-like symbol that looks similar to a wi-fi symbol on the front of your card. This indicates that you can pay for purchases by tapping your card at checkout with participating retailers, such as Costco and Target.

Here's what it looks like:

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If your card isn't contactless, you can call your issuer to see if they offer contactless cards and request a new one. If that's not an option, consider some of these contactless cards: Citi® Double Cash Card, Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

How to use a contactless card

Now that you know what a contactless card looks like, here's how to use one:

  1. At checkout, look for the same wave-like symbol on the payment terminal.
  2. Tap your credit card on the symbol.
  3. Once you get a payment confirmation, you're all set to go.

Are contactless cards safe?

Contactless cards use the same dynamic security features as inserting a chip card. Each time you tap your card, the transaction generates a one-time security code that protects your payment information.

Plus there's an additional security feature that's unique to contactless cards: you can't accidentally pay for someone else's purchases at the checkout lane. Your card needs to be within 1 to 2 inches of the payment terminal for the transaction to be approved.  And if you tap twice by mistake, you won't be charged twice.

Learn more: 58% of Americans who have used contactless are more likely to use it now than before the coronavirus

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.