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Important tip for preparing for your next visit to the UK

Hi folks,

I am not sure how it is in the States right now, but here in the UK many places will only except contactless payment. That is, paying with a debit/credit card that you tap on top of a card reader (note that you can't insert it but you have to tap it), or payment via Apple Pay/Google Pay on your phone (you tap your phone on the card reader and it charges your credit card account that you set up on your phone). It's not enough to have a chip-in-pin card, it has to be contactless. And they won't accept cash either. Of course this isn't true for every single establishment, but many restaurants, shops, coffee shops, museums, etc will now only accept contactless payment. Maybe it will change after the pandemic, but maybe not. I thought it would be helpful to warn people as it could really make your vacation difficult if you didn't have contactless or pay by phone option.

When I visited the States at Christmas last year I was surprised at how many places didn't accept Apple Pay. Here in the UK I use it to pay for all of my purchases that are under the limit set by the merchant (usually 30 or 45 pounds). I only use my regular (chip in pin) credit card to pay for groceries or items online.

I have been trying to get my mom to set up Apple Pay (it takes 5 minutes) on her phone for years as she is always trying to find the right change in pounds when she comes here... hopefully now with the pandemic I will have convinced her!

Happy travels :)

Posted by
4408 posts

A bit of clarification. Contactless is preferred but not insisted upon. If any purchase is above the limit of £45 then you have no option but to use chip and pin and therefore there's no reason not to use that method for any value beneath the limit. It's also a fair justification to use chip and pin in the absence of contactless abitlity. A vendor isn't going to deny a purchase simply because you have no choice but to use your pin.

Posted by
6056 posts

That's still a problem for us backward US folks who only have chip & signature cards.

Posted by
5657 posts

https://www.capitalone.com/learn-grow/privacy-security/contactless-credit-cards/

Contactless credit and debit cards are nothing new in places like
Europe, Australia and Canada, and over the past few years, the U.S.
has also embraced the technology. In fact, many of Capital One’s
U.S.-issued credit cards and debit cards now feature this technology.
This includes popular credit cards like Savor®, SavorOne®,
Quicksilver® and QuicksilverOne®, and 360 Checking® debit cards.

To check if your Capital One card is contactless, just look for the
contactless symbol on the back of your card. [Photo showing contactless symbol follows in above link}

Posted by
9829 posts

My US cards are being issued on renewal as contactless and I have found I can request new cards with the tap to pay feature from those not up for renewal. Just gotta embrace the change and it is for the better!

Posted by
216 posts

At this point I would just be happy to travel within the next 8 months. I just posted a thread regarding weather and travel in 2021 and getting responses about Covid and no traveling :(

Posted by
4934 posts

When we visited Scandanavia, we found, especially in Denmark that chip and pin was the standard and you had to say before the payment was processed that you wanted chip and signature.
We don't have tap or chip and pin on any cards.

Here in the US, most places where I use my credit cards have the chip machine, you stick your card in, don't have to push any buttons and it generates payment. No one touches our card and you don't touch the machine.

Posted by
54 posts

I am going to have to respectfully disagree with JC. Of course this isn't true with every establishment but, in my experience, several places here in Cambridge have notices up that say "contactless only." While visiting London at the weekend and this summer in Edinburgh, and the Cotswolds, I saw places that only take contactless. They have a special small machine (smaller than a credit card) that you hold your contactless card over to pay, or you tap your phone.

I just think of my retiree-aged parents coming over here not knowing that (with their chip and signature cards and loads of cash), and having some disappointment/frustration at not being able to do they planned... that and having to book all your museum visits in advance!

Cheers.

Posted by
31303 posts

dave,

Thanks for the heads up on the payment methods. It's interesting to hear how others are dealing with things like this during the pandemic.

I believe all my cards have the "tap" feature and one debit and one credit card is set up for Apple Pay, so I shouldn't have a problem. Contactless payment has been in use here for quite awhile, and has become the preferred payment method during the pandemic. My daily limit for "tap" transactions is $100, and if the amount is over that I have to use the standard "Chip & PIN" method. Merchants here don't seem to have a preference for either method. With C&P transactions, they usually sanitize the machine after each use.

At least one of the drive-thru restaurants here has their payment terminal mounted on a kind of "selfie stick" and they pass that out the window to the customer, so staff can still maintain their distance.

Posted by
624 posts

I was just having this conversation with my family the other day (They live in North Essex area and I in the middle of Missouri) . He told me the very same thing. Make sure you have a contactless method of payment when I come to the UK next time (I am hoping for June 2021.) I think I will set up my applepay and I already have a CC that has a contactless pay option. (I always travel with two Credit Cards so I will be making sure I have that option on a second card just in case I have problems with the first). This is good information for those that are looking forward to traveling to the UK in the future post COVID.

Margaret

Posted by
3299 posts

All my cards are contactless now. I have to believe all cards from the major institutions are going contactless when they get renewed. If not, just ask your financial institution for one. Cash will make somewhat of a comeback once things begin to normalize, whenever that is, but there’s no doubt that the virus accelerated the contactless, no cash, trend.

Posted by
26010 posts

It may be different in Portsmouth than up here in the East but there is a significant number of shops here which won't accept cash and won't allow the traditional chip and PIN inside the shop.

A couple of examples - a National Trust property says on the website that only contactless will be accepted in the cafe, at the ticket window or in the shop. Both there and at the cafe and take-away window of the Royal Horticultural Society garden in Essex they hold the card machine up on their side of the window and the card or phone has to be held next to the window on our side. No exceptions.

At a Tesco petrol forecourt (gas station) near me there is a sign on all the pumps that the only payment options are chip and PIN at the self service pumps or contactless only at the till in the shop. No cash. Again it is card on one side of the screen and the machine on the other.

Same at a nearby ASDA petrol forecourt. Pay at the pump with C&P or drive to the payment window where the machine is waved at the card but the slot is taped off.

Maybe we in the East are different to the rest of the country?

Posted by
4408 posts

Maybe we in the East are different to the rest of the country?

I don't know Nigel, maybe you are or maybe here in the South it's us that are different.

My closest Sainsbury's petrol station permits you to either pay via the night window which negates the requirement to wear a mask or via the kiosk where you have to wear a mask, there is no limit to how much fuel you can purchase and therefore no stipulation that only contactless is allowed.

Every supermarket has let me pay with chip and pin.

My wife and I went for dinner at a local independent restaurant last Saturday, the bill was significantly more than the £45 limit so we tried to pay by chip and pin but their machine broke down, they settled for cash.

My local independent pet shop allows me to pay by chip and pin.

I see many signs that state "contactless only" however on those occasions where the total has exceedeed the £45 limit I have been able to pay by chip and pin.

Posted by
2516 posts

In Edinburgh ,very few if any places stipulate Contactless only, many do say that Contactless is the preferred method of payment and the only shop I have been in lately that has refused cash has been Wilko, everywhere else there has been no problem paying by card or cash.

Posted by
4857 posts

In Kent (south east of London) most places have signs outside saying card payments only. I haven’t noticed any signs saying contactless only. I haven’t been in any shops other than supermarkets to differentiate between contactless or chip and pin, but my supermarket and petrol purchases have been over £45, so I couldn’t pay contactless anyway.

I had an ice cream from a small outdoor kiosk in south Wales a few weeks ago and they were cards only, not cash. National Trust properties are card only and have to be pre-booked.

I presume that by the time it’s deemed safe for Americans to visit Europe, then people will be happy to touch money again and cash maybe accepted, but it could be a question of changed habits. In the U.K., with many banks having closed, shop keepers probably prefer card payments rather than having to drive miles to the nearest bank to pay cash in.

Posted by
189 posts

Wanted to add, Apple has done away with the limit on contactless Apple Pay purchases. So even if you don’t have a contactless card, or the purchase is about the limit for a contactless card, you can use Apple Pay if you have an iPhone.

Posted by
5360 posts

I think it is easiest when visiting a Country to be prepared for the easiest way to pay for items and services. That is why, even being from the US, that I worked to find a true Chip and PIN CC that is PIN priority, and made contactless technology on my phone a priority when replacing it (not all phones support contactless purchases).

However, while the "heads up" is appreciated, for others from the US, by the time general travel is allowed, one can only be assured that businesses associated with the tourist trade will take whatever payment your cold cash comes in. I really do not see a restaurant or hotel turning customers away at the door. The measures in place take advantage of the fact that they are dealing primarily with locals and residents.

That said, I do believe one outcome of this pandemic will be a swifter move away from cash. Used to be have some cash, have a couple ATM cards, and a couple Credit cards. Having Chip based cards is now common, maybe in the US they will finally force Chip and PIN, but having Contactless, in Card or Phone for small purchases is certainly something to move towards.

Regarding contactless, the advantage of having it on your phone is that it does not matter what type of Credit card you have for the most part, even AMEX and Discover linked to the account will work in Europe, however availability does vary. The UK is heavily Apple, so Apple Pay is common, in the rest of Europe, Android phones are more common, Google Pay is available in larger cities, as is Apple Pay, but certainly behind the UK and Scandinavia in availability and less common in smaller towns.

Posted by
26010 posts

The measures in place take advantage of the fact that they are dealing primarily with locals and residents.

but mostly assist in preventing the spread of the disease. I feel much more comfortable not touching anything but my own phone or card, and then putting it away, then picking up what I am getting, preferably with gloves, and then washing or alcoholing my hands.

and the vendor benefits by putting my item or bag at a distance and having me wave my card/phone through a window. No tapping, just being near. No touching the window or the machine. Better for them, better for me.

Posted by
6056 posts

So, in the US, as many of you Brits might know, those card readers that servers bring to the table in restaurants are non-existent (I've never seen one here anyway). Do the ones in the UK also allow tap or Apple Pay, at the table?

I live in a large city in the center of the US, and no business I've been to here frowns on cash. People are much less concerned about contracting COVID from handling objects than from breathing droplets. Apple Pay is more widely available than a year or so ago, but still spotty. I've found that if that's your primary means of paying, you need to have a back up - cash or card. Some places have a limit on Apple Pay, above which (e.g., $100) you still have to sign a credit card receipt.

Posted by
3469 posts

I have not actually gone into any store, restaurant, or other place to pay for anything other than groceries and coffee since March (and one visit to the barber). I have done pickup. While most places I have gone to prefer you pay online when placing an order, if you pay on pickup, or in the case of the barber at time of service, they all now have the European style handheld payment device which they hold out to you to either insert your card or do the contactless payment. Some have the Square brand terminal which is just a square block of plastic with all of the functions at the computer it connects to. Unfortunately, not all have added Apple Pay to their options even if they do accept contactless.

I am liking the change. I haven't used cash around home to pay for anything for many years unless I absolutely had to. I will get $100 for the ATM when I think I might need some cash, but the last time I did that was in February - March when I took my last flight somewhere. The same $100 is still in my pocket waiting on something to spend it on. I might end up putting it back into the bank because no one, and I mean no one, wants cash right now.

So I will be ready the next time I go to the UK or anywhere else in Europe that prefers payment with contactless.

Posted by
1642 posts

A couple of restaurants out here on the East Coast have card readers right on the table. You pay for your meal and a receipt gets printed out as well.

The card readers are sanitized before and after each guest (s)

Posted by
6056 posts

@Girasole, but do they take tap or phone pay or do they need a swipe or insertion? I would be glad to see this more widespread.

Posted by
54 posts

My ApplePay here in England is linked to my US credit card (since we are Americans living in England for a few years). I have had no problems with my ApplePay not working just because it is linked to a US card. I really think it's fantastic. A few years ago before I had ApplePay I was having to sign for most every credit card purchase. Now I just tap and it's done!

Posted by
4408 posts

How do UK merchants handle payments in excess of the UK's 45 GBP floor limit/cardholder verification limit?

The £45 limit is only imposed on contactless payments. There is no limit on chip and pin payments.

Posted by
4640 posts

I'm glad I read the rest of the posts on this thread. I thought we only had one card that was contactless, and it was one I had considered cancelling. But after reading Edgar's post, I checked my Capital One card, which is the card we usually use for travel, and sure enough, it is contactless! The symbol was very discrete, almost hidden on the back of the card.

Posted by
54 posts

Edgar-

Yes if you are above the contactless limit, then you (with an American chip and signature card) would have to insert your card into the reader and it would print out a receipt for you to sign.

Posted by
19160 posts

I have a chip-and-signature card. I have signed for many purchases in the UK. Most of the time the staffer actually compares the signature on the receipt to the one on the back of the card; they seem to take card security seriously there. The big plus is that there has never been any issue about using an old-fashioned (i.e., American) credit card.

Posted by
13 posts

"be assured that businesses associated with the tourist trade will take whatever payment your cold cash comes in."

Be assured they won't take cash. Cash is a nuisance - it's unsanitary, a security risk and, with so many bank branches closing, difficult to bank. It will be contactless, GooglePay or ApplePay.

Posted by
4408 posts

Be assured they won't take cash. Cash is a nuisance - it's unsanitary, a security risk and, with so many bank branches closing, difficult to bank. It will be contactless, GooglePay or ApplePay.

Well, my eldest son worked on a friends fish stall at two farmers markets this weekend and he accepted nothing but cash (along with many of the other traders). Whilst card payment is preferable in the current situation it doesn't mean that cash is entirely verboten. Let's not forget that small businesses are inconvenienced by card payments as they have to pay a fee. Yes I know there are accounts of stores turning away customers for trying to pay in cash but this isn't across the board.

Posted by
4535 posts

It costs businesses to deposit cash as well. This can be mitigated if the business can operate on a cash basis with its own suppliers, staff etc but this is increasingly difficult for anything other than a sole or small scale trader.

Personally I have used cash for a purchase once since March. Even my barbers which previously was a holdout is now taking cards 'to minimise cash transactions'.

Posted by
652 posts

ACraven, yes we take card security seriously. When i get a signature card i always get check the back of the card. If it isnt signed I ask for another form of id with the signature on, if they dont have one I cant accept the payment. No acception. Otherwise how am i ment to know they are the legal owner of the card. With signatures its my responsibility, with contactless its the banks. Or thats the way i understand it.😀

Posted by
5360 posts

It probably is worth pointing out one significant difference between the US and most of the rest of the World.

In the US, when a business takes payment on a card, they really have little liability, if fraud is detected, the card issuer takes the biggest hit, the card holder (you) have little to no liability.

In most of the World, the business accepting the payment is liable for loss. This is due to high levels of security (Chip and PIN, Encryption, etc.) put in place...ie; Cost of Security invested, risk passed to businesses. Businesses in the US just never bought into the Security idea.

Posted by
652 posts

Paul, very interesting, i didnt know that, thank you

Posted by
10 posts

I’ve never had chip and pin refused. I don’t know about other banks but Monzo enforce a chip and pin transaction after a certain number of contactless transactions have been made. This has never been an issue anywhere throughout the pandemic.

Posted by
7991 posts

dave, where in the US were you that didnt take Apple Pay? Here in SF, the SF Bay Area, and California in general i use it everywhere. The US is like 50 different countries, what’s true in one area isnt true in another.