With social isolation and self-quarantine practices in full swing, it can be jarring to venture outside when you’re in need of essential items. A simple trip to the store becomes daunting, especially when you’ve had little-to-no contact with other people for some time.
According to the World Health Organization, COVID-19 may be able to live on surfaces for a few hours up to several days. This presents a host of potential problems when getting groceries, especially during the point-of-sale transaction at the checkout counter. If every person is touching the credit card reader, there is a higher risk of the coronavirus spreading.
With contactless credit cards, you don’t have to touch anything, which could make it safer when checking out at the grocery store or anywhere else you shop. Even better, contactless card transactions are faster than swiping or inserting your credit card and they’re just as secure.
So which cards are contactless? Here, we’ll discuss some of the best contactless credit cards available today and how this payment technology works.
How do contactless credit card payments work?
Contactless payment options use something called near field communication to enable close-range transactions at a payment terminal. Contactless payment can take the form of credit cards, mobile apps, digital wallets, and more. This form of payment has seen widespread use around the world, including in the U.K. where Barclaycard has been using contactless cards for more than a decade.
In the U.S., we may be more accustomed to using chip cards that you have to insert into a payment terminal. These transactions, called EMV chip transactions, create a one-time code that is encrypted and valid only for that single transaction. Because the code changes with each transaction, it’s difficult for counterfeiters to replicate the process and steal the data stored on the microchip.
Magnetic-stripe cards, though, store your payment card data directly on the magnetic stripe. This is a static form of storage that doesn’t involve any constantly changing encryption codes. Because the process is the same every time, it’s much easier for counterfeiters to replicate and steal your card information from a swipe.
Contactless credit cards use the same process as EMV chip transactions, in which the microchip uses a one-time encrypted code to authorize the transaction. The only difference is that you don’t have to insert the card into the payment terminal or swipe anything at all. All it requires is for the card to be within one or two inches of a contactless-enabled payment terminal.
Because you don’t have to touch anything while using contactless payments, it’s a lot easier to avoid surfaces that other people may have touched during the coronavirus pandemic. Even when life returns to normal, contactless credit cards are still a great payment method to adopt. These cards are faster than swiping or inserting your traditional credit card, more secure than paying with a debit card, and faster and easier than paying with cash.
Best contactless credit cards
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
- American Express Gold Card
- Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
- Citi Double Cash Card
- Wells Fargo Propel from American Express
The best contactless credit card for you will depend on how you generally spend your money and whether you’re interested in points/miles or cash back. Consider the following cards and how they might align with your spending habits and interests.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
If you like to travel and want to earn valuable points for flights and hotel stays, the Chase Sapphire Preferred could be right for you. It’s frequently included as one of the best travel credit cards available, and for good reason. The new cardmember sign-up bonus allows you to earn 80,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. This bonus is generous and can help you book nearly free travel. Plus, the list of Chase Sapphire Preferred benefits is long and includes premium travel perks.
With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you’ll earn 5X on Lyft rides, 2X points on eligible dining and travel, and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases. And if you redeem points through the Chase travel portal, your points are worth 25% more. You can redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and more.
In addition to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, all other Chase cards are also contactless. Because Chase offers a wide variety of credit cards, it’s easy to find one that would best suit your needs.
- If you would rather earn cash back than points or miles, the Chase Freedom Card offers a $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months. You’ll also earn 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories (up to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter) and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
- Southwest credit cards offer a lot of value for frequent Southwest flyers. The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card has a $149 annual fee and you can earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. You’ll also earn 2X points with Southwest and on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases and 1X points on all other purchases. And you’ll receive 7,500 anniversary points and $75 Southwest travel credit each year.
- If you want a lower annual fee, you might consider the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card. It comes with a $69 annual fee and you can earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months. You'll also earn 2X points for every $1 spent on Southwest Airlines and participating Rapid Rewards purchases and 1X points on all other purchases. And you’ll receive 3,000 anniversary points each year.
American Express Gold Card
If you need a credit card for dining, groceries, and travel, the American Express Gold Card may be an ideal choice for you. With the welcome bonus, you can earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months after account opening. Once this bonus is earned, you could be well on your way to redeeming these valuable Membership Rewards points for travel.
Plus, you’ll earn 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year) and at restaurants worldwide, 3X on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com, and 1X on all other eligible purchases. You can also receive up to $120 in dining credits and up to a $100 airline fee credit each year.
If you’re interested in other American Express contactless credit cards, you’ll be happy to know they should all be updated soon. According to an American Express representative, every American Express credit card issued since January 2020 should be contactless. If you already have a credit card from American Express and it’s not contactless, you can contact them for a replacement.
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
As far as travel rewards credit cards go, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is one of the best. With a 50,000-mile early spend bonus after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months, an up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit, and plenty of Capital One transfer partners where you can redeem your miles — you might consider looking into this card before your next trip. And you'll earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day, which makes it easy to rack up these valuable rewards.
Many of Capital One’s credit cards now feature contactless technology. Including these popular cards:
- Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
If you’re more interested in earning cash back instead of miles, the Quicksilver Cash Rewards card is a prime choice for everyday purchases. You can earn a $150 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months and 1.5% cash back rewards on every purchase, every day. With a flat, unlimited earning rate, it's easy to use this card for everything and earn rewards along the way. Plus the annual fee is $0, and there are no foreign transaction fees.
Citi Double Cash Card
If you need a simple, no-hassle cashback credit card, the Citi Double Cash Card may be an excellent option for you. It’s considered one of the best cashback credit cards available due to its straightforward rewards earning and $0 annual fee.
With the Citi Double Cash Card, you'll earn up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay. There’s also 0% APR on balance transfers for 18 months and credit alerts for increased card security.
It seems like Citi has followed the example of many other credit card issuers with a complete rollout of contactless credit cards, which makes it easier for you to amass more of the valuable Citi ThankYou Points. This may include replacement cards sent to existing cardholders, so if your card isn’t contactless, contact Citi to see whether you can get a new one.
Wells Fargo Propel from American Express
If you want a flexible travel rewards credit card with a $0 annual fee, you should consider the Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card. You’ll earn 3X points on eligible dining, transportation, travel, and streaming service purchases; and 1X points on other purchases. You can also earn 20,000 points when you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months. Points can be redeemed for travel, cash redemption, gift cards, and more.
Currently, all Wells Fargo credit cards are contactless. So if you’re interested in a contactless cashback rewards credit card, then look no further than the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa Card. This no-fuss cashback credit card offers a $150 cash reward after spending $500 in the first 3 months. You’ll earn 1.8% cash back on purchases made with a qualifying mobile wallet for the first 12 months, then unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on everyday purchases. Earning cash back couldn’t be simpler.
Best contactless business credit cards
If you run a business, a business credit card could help you better manage your finances by separating business expenses from personal ones. Chase Ink business cards are known for their strong rewards earning potential and attractive benefits. Here are two contactless business credit cards you can consider.
Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
If you travel and have business expenses, the Chase Ink Business Preferred can provide you with ample benefit — especially when you consider its big sign-up bonus and bonus spending categories.
You can earn 100,000 points after spending $15,000 in the first 3 months. You'll also earn 5X points on Lyft rides; 3X points on the first $150,000 spent each year on travel, shipping, internet, cable, or phone services, and advertising purchases with social media and search engines; and 1X points per $1 on everything else.
Points earned on this card are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through the Chase travel portal. That means if you have 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you’re holding a possible $1,250 toward travel.
Chase Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card
For business owners interested in an easy-to-use cashback business credit card, the Chase Ink Business Unlimited could be a good fit. You can earn $500 bonus cash back after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. You'll also earn 1.5% cash back on all spending. You can then redeem your rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards, and more.
How do I know if my credit card is contactless?
The easiest way to see whether your credit card is contactless is to check for the contactless indicator on the front of your card. It will appear as four gradually increasing curved lines, similar to the Wi-Fi symbol.
If you don’t see this symbol on a current credit card, you can call your credit card issuer to see whether they can send you a new card that’s contactless. Most card issuers have already begun the process of rolling out contactless cards.
Keep in mind that contactless payments will work only when both the credit card and payment machines are contactless-enabled. Contactless-enabled machines will have the contactless symbol attached to them, which indicates they’re ready for contactless payments. If there’s no option for a contactless transaction, you can also pay with your contactless credit card like normal, as using the EMV chip or sliding the card will still work.
Other forms of contactless payment
Credit cards aren’t the only form of contactless payment. You can also use Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and other digital wallet and mobile payment options. For example, Apple Pay can be used with compatible Apple devices at millions of retailers, including McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Walgreens. Contactless technology is available for both iPhone and Android smartphones.
Many of these options function similarly. For Apple Pay, you load your credit card(s) onto your device, choose the card you want to use, and then hold your device close to the contactless-enabled payment machine. You don’t have to touch anything, it’s simple, and provides you with another option than carrying around your credit cards.
Bottom line on contactless credit cards
With contactless payments, you can help to avoid unnecessary cross-contamination during this crisis. It may be a small step, but any form of progress toward increasing your safety is beneficial.
Remember, after you’ve weathered this storm, contactless payments will still be important. Contactless credit cards help to reduce the overall time spent in checkout lines through a quicker and more efficient — yet still secure — process.
#1 Travel Rewards Card
- 80,000 point sign-up bonus
- 5X points on select streaming services (up to $1,500) until September 30, 2020
- 3X points with Instacart (up to $3,000), and at gas stations (up to $1,500) until September 30, 2020
- 2X points on eligible dining and travel purchases
- 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Premium travel protection benefits