With contactless credit cards, you don’t have to touch anything, which can 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® Card
- American Express® Gold Card
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
- Citi Double Cash® Card
- Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
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® Card
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 welcome bonus allows you to earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. 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 points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®; 3X points on dining, select streaming services, and eligible online grocery purchases; 2X points on all other travel purchases, 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 Flex℠ offers $200 cash back after spending $500 in the first 3 months. You’ll also earn 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories you activate (on up to $1,500 spent) and travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal; 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery service); 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 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You’ll also earn 3X points on Southwest purchases; 2X points on participating Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners; local transit and commuting, including rideshare; and on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming; 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 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You'll also earn 2X points on Southwest purchases and participating Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners; on local transit and commuting, including rideshare; and on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming; plus 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 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 in the first 6 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, after that 1X) and at restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., 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 each year. The Amex Gold does come with $250 annual fee (terms apply) and select benefits require enrollment.
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 an excellent option. You can earn a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.
You also get up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit and plenty of Capital One transfer partners where you can redeem your miles. And you'll earn 2 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day and 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, which makes it easy to rack up 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 Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card is a prime choice for everyday purchases. You can earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening and 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day; and 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel (terms apply). With an 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 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases; plus, for a limited time, earn 5% total cash back on hotel, car rentals and attractions booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through 12/31/24. There’s also 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months (then 19.24% - 29.24% (Variable)) 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 Active Cash® Card
Currently, all Wells Fargo credit cards are contactless. So if you’re interested in a contactless cash rewards credit card, then look no further than the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card. This no-fuss cash rewards credit card offers the opportunity to earn $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months. You can earn 2% cash rewards on purchases. Earning cash rewards couldn’t be simpler.
Best contactless business credit cards
If you run a business, one of the best business credit cards 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.
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 welcome bonus and bonus spending categories.
You can earn 100k bonus points after you spend $8,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You'll also earn 3X points on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year; and 1X points per $1 on all other purchases.
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.
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 $900 bonus cash back after you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You'll also earn Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase. 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.
To choose the best contactless credit cards, we identified cards that offer contactless payment and compared features travel rewards, cashback rates, annual fees, and other perks. We did not include all possible options.
Great for Flexible Travel Rewards
FinanceBuzz writers and editors score cards based on a number of objective features as well as our expert editorial assessment. Our partners do not influence how we rate products.
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®; 3X points on dining, select streaming services, and eligible online grocery purchases; 2X points on all other travel purchases, and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases