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We’ve been using contactless in the UK for 10 years now and each year more and more transactions are made with a simple tap.

I actually got one of the first contactless bank cards back in 2007. It was called a Barclaycard OnePulse and it actually was part credit card and part Oyster. It had my TFL travel card on there and I was tapping in and out for years before it was replaced with contactless as we know it today.

But I’ve kept on using the system. It’s so easy that I rarely use cash or Chip and PIN at all. Tap for this, tap for that…

But it’s not the same everywhere. Last year I went on holiday to California, and I was surprised to find I couldn’t tap and pay.

Even though Apple Pay and Android Pay are available, the idea of contactless hasn’t reached across the Atlantic (at least not in San Diego). In fact, the Americans are only just getting their heads around chip and pin.

I can’t remember the last time I signed a receipt after using a card back home, but it’s still a common occurrence in the States.

So my week of using cash and signing when using a card was a little odd, and it made me think a little about my contactless use back here in the UK.

Is the technology our friend, or is it our foe? Here’s my take on it.

Convenience

Contactless has made life a hell of a lot easier for me. It’s the quickest way to pay, as long as it costs less than £30.

I find it easier and quicker than Apple Pay too.

If you’ve multiple cards, as I do, it also means you don’t have to remember your PIN!

Friend 1; Foe 0

Big purchases

On the other hand, when you do spend more than £30, or head somewhere which doesn’t accept contactless, I’ve occasionally forgotten my PIN and been caught out. Grrrr.

Friend 1; Foe 1

Budgeting

It was contactless that really reduced my use of cash. I used to think putting £2.37 on a card was ridiculous, but now I hardly use cash at all.

Yet having and using notes made a huge difference to my spending behaviour on my trip to America.

I kept a closer track of what I was spending, not only each time I spent, but the total over the each day and the full week.

Though I’m pretty hot at not spending more than I should for each item I buy, I expect I spend more than I think over the weeks and months because I’m tapping away. I know it’s the case on nights out!

Using cash is probably the best way to spend if you’re on a tight budget, and contactless probably the worst!

Friend 1; Foe 2

>> More on when you should use cash instead of cards

Cashback

When you spend with coins and notes you don’t get anything back. But you do with the right credit or debit card – and contactless makes it even easier.

Friend 2; Foe 2

Security

Though I’ve never experienced this, there is obviously a greater risk that you could be a victim of fraud.

Money Saving Expert investigation found contactless was still active on stolen Halifax, Nationwide, co-op and Lloyds cards months after being reported missing.

Plus there’s the slim possibility someone could scan your card while it’s in your pocket.

Friend 2; Foe 3

Wallet weight

At last, no annoying change in my pocket. I tend to get rid of any coins as quickly as I can, and since I rarely pay with cash I don’t tend to get any news ones.

Friend 3; Foe 3

Overcharging

It’s likely you don’t get a receipt when you use contactless. I ask for one, but that’s because I’m a money nerd trying to track everything I spend.

The risk here is you don’t always see what’s on the contactless terminal (again, I’m thinking nights out in particular). It makes it easy for you to be overcharged as you’re not checking the actual cost.

Ok, so for most this isn’t too different using cash. How often do you check the change you’ve been given?

But ultimately, this one does go down as a foe.

Friend 3; Foe 4

Commuting

Though TFL say contactless costs the same as Oyster, it can actually be cheaper for pay-as-you-go users and you don’t need to worry about topping up. It’s also faster than using Apple Pay.

Sadly you can’t get a season ticket on a contactless card, but for me it’s made traveling in London much better.

Friend 4; Foe 4

It’s a tie!!

A little deeper analysis shows the categories that scored “foe” are potentially more risky than the ones rated “friend”.

So if you’re not on top of your finances and need to keep track of your spending it might be better to stick to cash and chip and pin.

But the chances of fraud, overcharging and forgetting your PIN are low, so for most, including me, I think contactless is a winner.

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