Raising Contactless Limit Likely to Increase Crime

calendar iconOct 19, 2021


The UK limit on spend per contactless card transaction has more than doubled from £45 to £100, and criminologists are warning the steep rise will make card fraud more attractive to criminals.

Upon their introduction in 2007, contactless card payments were limited to £10. It was another five years before the maximum amount rose to £20, three years before it increased to £30, and another five until it reached £45 at the start of the pandemic. The jump to £100 has caused concern among academics advising on crime and security, especially in conjunction with the contactless threshold for multiple transactions rising from £130 to £300.

The UCL Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science explain the reason for low contactless limits in their 2021 report on post-pandemic crime, saying debit and credit cards are already a high-risk target. Low contactless limits go some way to reducing their attractiveness, since a PIN or other security measures will be required for higher or multiple spends.

The report notes over 40 percent of ‘thefts from the person’ in England and Wales throughout 2019 involved the loss of a debit, credit or store card (ONS 2020) and warns that increasing ‘easy crime opportunities’ can have a damaging legacy, encouraging teenage offenders who progress to more serious offences over the longer term.

Raising the contactless card limit to £100 would likely make card theft more attractive, increasing a broad range of acquisitive crimes including snatch theft of wallets and purses, hold-up robberies, and home and vehicle break-ins.
"UCL Jill Dando Institute of Securityand Crime Science, 2021

The report recommended not increasing the ceiling for contactless payments, and cited Bank of England research that found COVID-19 is not well transmitted via cash, saying ‘a return to it would carry little risk.’

Major banks echoed the report’s recommendations, urging the Government and regulators to stagger the increase and limit the number of times a card can be used each day without a PIN. It has now been confirmed that both the per-transaction and daily limits will rise regardless.

Last Updated: Oct 19, 2021