A contactless card paymnt

Tap, tap, tap: a brief history of contactless payments

We tap, we wait for the beep, we go. Contactless has become such a part of everyday life that it’s hard to remember that the payment technology has only been with us for a few years. The first ever hint of contactless was a bus card issued in Seoul back in 1995, but it didn’t really hit the big time until the first contactless Barclaycard appeared 12 years later in 2007.

Barclaycard has played a key role in the evolution of contactless payments in the UK as a leader in this space, responsible for processing more than half of the UK’s credit and debit card transactions.

Now, as the contactless limit increases this month up to £100 we share a timeline of the key innovations over the years, from the first ever contactless payments, to the role contactless played during the COVID-19 pandemic, and beyond. Where have we been and where are we going?

  • 1995: The first recorded contactless payment was taken by the Seoul Bus Transport Association.
  • 2007: Barclaycard pioneers contactless payments in the UK with the OnePulse card, a
  • contactless debit card/Oyster card hybrid designed to be used across the TfL network and around 6,000 retailers. The spending limit per transaction is initially set at £10.
  • 2010: As contactless becomes ever more popular, the contactless payment limit is increased to £15.
  • 2011: The world’s first mobile payment device is launched in a partnership between Barclaycard and Orange (Quick Tap).
  • 2012: Barclaycard launches the UK’s first wearable payment tech, Barclaycard PayBand and PayTag stickers that go on back of phone so it can be used as a type of contactless “card”. The contactless payment limit increases again, this time from £15 to £20 and TfL enables London buses to accept contactless payments, further streamlining the commute for Londoners.
  • 2014: Those yellow Oyster contactless readers we all know and love appear across the TfL network.
  • 2015: Barclaycard creates the nation’s first “payments fashion wearables” through partnerships with TOPSHOP and Lyle & Scott. The spending cap creeps up again to £30, where it stays right up to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
  • 2016: Things get really interesting, as Barclaycard’s launch of contactless payments on Android allows customers to make mobile payments up to the value of £100.
  • 2017: Barclaycard celebrates ten years of contactless payments in the UK.
  • 2020: we see the contactless limit increase from £30 to £45 across UK retailers to lessen handling of cash and chip and pin, to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
  • 2021: On 15 October, the contactless limit will increase again to £100.

This latest evolution in contactless seems particularly significant because it means that most items shoppers pick up when they are out and about will be able to be paid for safely, quickly and efficiently.

Commenting on the latest increase to the contactless limit, Paul Adams, Head of Acquiring for Barclaycard Payments, said, “We are again taking a leading role in the rollout of the new limit and we will be updating our card readers from 15 October. By working closely with our clients and industry stakeholders we want to ensure a smooth transition for both merchants and consumers to the higher threshold. Contactless has proved to be a popular choice for consumers over the past year and in according to UK Finance, it now accounts for more than a quarter (27 per cent) of all UK payments. The increase to £100 will enable quick and safe payments for even more transactions such as the weekly shop, filling up at the petrol station and more meals out.”