The maximum limit for contactless
card transactions in the UK has increased from £10 to £15 ($15 to
$22.6) following a push by payment networks Visa and MasterCard and
bankcard issuer Barclays to bring the UK more in line with
contactless limits across Europe.

UK debit and credit cardholders can
now spend up to £15 without having to give a signature or enter a
PIN.

There had been concern within the
payment industry that the previous £10 limit was too small to cover
the range of low-value transactions contactless has been designed
for, and that subsequently merchants were reluctant to implement
contactless, hampering efforts by the payment networks and banks to
roll out the technology on a wider basis.

The £15 limit brings the UK more
closely in line with contactless limits across Europe, which range
from €15 to €25 ($20 to $34).

Barclays has led the push to bring
contactless to the wider market, following its launch of the first
contactless card in the UK in 2007.

It has since implemented
contactless as a standard feature across its range of debit and
credit cards in the UK.

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By GlobalData

More than two million
contactless-enabled
Barclays Visa debit cards
and more than four million
contactless
Barclaycard credit cards
have been issued in the UK to
date.

The UK Cards Association, the UK’s
payment industry body, said at the end of January that around 7.8
million contactless-enabled cards had been issued in the UK to
date, and that the figure should rise to around 12 million by the
middle of 2010.

An estimated one in seven UK
residents will have a contactless card by the end of 2010.

Brian Cunnington, head of debit
cards for Barclays, said: “Contactless technology is undoubtedly
the future of payments and we are seeing it grow hugely in
popularity.

“More than two years after the
first customers were issued with contactless cards it is the right
time for the industry limit to increase to £15, in line with demand
from consumers and retailers alike.

“The new higher limit gives
customers the flexibility of paying for even more transactions
quickly, securely and conveniently via a contactless card payment
and will lead to more retailers implementing the technology.”

Currently 20,000 payment terminals
at retailers in the UK are capable of taking contactless payments
including many outlets in the fast food, coffee and independent
retail sectors, but it is estimated that only 8,000 outlets are
currently accepting contactless transactions on a regular
basis.

The UK has been relatively slow to
take up contactless, but plans to phase out cheques by 2018 could
push more consumer transactions towards the contactless
channel.

Barclaycard extends
‘Freedom’ scheme

Separately, Barclaycard has announced that UK restaurant chain
Pizza Express has become the most recent partner in its
Freedom’ retail rewards
scheme, which is currently available to over eight million Barclays
customers in the UK who will earn and redeem rewards instantly at
the point of sale.

Barclaycard’s Freedom scheme was
launched in the UK in March, and is being lauded as the broadest
retail rewards scheme in the marketplace.

Barclaycard has invited over 30,000 merchant outlets to
participate in the scheme, including small, medium and large
merchants across a range of sectors including shops, restaurants
and online outlets.

Contactless

Number of Barclays UK
contactless cards

 

2009 (m)

Debit cards

2

Credit cards

4

Source: Barclays