What is a NFC Enabled Contactless Credit Card? Is it operational in India?
Is it safe to use Near Field Communication (NFC) cards. What care must be taken?
Which banks are currently providing NFC Credit Cards in India?
We will try to answer these intriguing questions in this blog post.
ICICI & SBI was among the first banks to launch contactless credit cards in India.
Now there are dozens of NFC enabled contactless credit cards in India offered by:
- Kotak Mahindra Bank.
- HDFC Bank.
- IndusInd Bank.
- Standard Chartered Bank.
- American Express (India).
- ICICI Bank.
- State Bank of India etc.
You will get the list of NFC based credit cards at the bottom of this post.
But before that, lets know a bit about this new technology.
These cards works on the technology called Near Field Communication (NFC).
Other applications which use NFC payment system are:
- Apple Pay,
- Google Pay, &
- Samsung Pay.
What is Near Field Communication (NFC) Technology?
Using NFC, the payments gets executed without any physical contact.
In the initial days (Year 2015), it looked like pure magic.
But after Samsung Pay was launched, contactless payment has become common in India.
India is gearing up for NFC based contactless payment. At present the infrastructure to handle NFC based payments are not enough.
What is NFC?
The theory is simple, there is a wireless data transfer between device (card reader) and card.
Both, card reader device, and credit card must be NFC Enabled.
Such devices can read NFC credit cards from a close proximity of few centimetres (< 5-10 cm).
What type data gets exchanged between the reader and card?
The payment details like:
- Credit Card Number,
- Expiry Date,
- Name of Card Holder &
To execute the data transfer, no internet connectivity is required.
By simply waving credit card in front of the card terminal (or a gentle tap), payments get executed. How?
The two NFC devices (reader and credit card), will identify each other by means of radio frequency (RFID).
Both the devices has an inbuilt NFC microchips, which helps in internet free communication.
All payments made using NFC enabled contactless credit cards in India must be below Rs.2,000/= (per transaction).
Nevertheless, one can make multiple transactions in a day (maximum 4 to 5 per day).
In rest of the world, for such contactless payments, no PIN input is required.
[Note: PIN entry in India is mandatory as per RBI guidelines].
So one can just tap the credit card on the readers, and there goes the payment.
For higher amounts (above Rs.2.0K), the card needs to be swapped in the traditional way.
Why NFC technology in credit cards?
The main benefit is, speedy payments.
It is same like using a swap card to enter a Metro Train, instead of waiting in a queue’s for the ticket.
NFC based payments execute really fast. How?
In NFC enabled devices, no pairing is required.
For a non NFC device, say a laptop and mobile phone, wireless communication between them can happen only after pairing.
This pairing consumes some time.
But in NFC devices, as there is no pairing required, making small-small payments is as fast as cash payments.
In USA, UK, Australia, NFC microchip enabled credit cards are not new.
But in India NFC based credit cards usage is gradually growing.
The usage of NFC based card is very convenient. Hence it must not be far, when all traditional contact based credit cards will become obsolete.
They will be replaced with contactless credit and debit cards.
Moreover, application like Apple Pay & Samsung Pay etc will make NFC payments even more popular? How?
Because users can make contactless payments using their mobile phones.
Imagine the convenience, if payments in shopping malls starts to happen using contactless credit cards.
The queues will become shorter as payment will start happening at a fast pace.
There are similar application like (see below), where use of contactless payments will find utility:
- Rail metro,
- Tea shops,
- Toll collection etc,
If payments in these fronts are done through contactless credit card, life will become easier.
These days all such payment are made in cash or contact based cards.
Contactless credit card has potential to replace not only cash but also the traditional swappable credit cards.
If there are NFC Cards, why use Apple Pay & Samsung Pay?
Apple was the first to launch contactless payments using their mobile phones in 2015 (US and UK).
They named the application as “Apple Pay”.
As there are less number of iOS users, reach of contactless payments remained limited.
But in 2016, Samsung Pay was launched.
As Samsung is the leader in sale of Android devices, contactless payments gained more popularity.
But why big companies like Apple and Samsung is investing on contactless payment technology?
Why to use a phone to make payment, when our credit card has NFC technology inbuilt in it?
There are two main reasons:
- As on today, only few credit cards has NFC inbuilt.
- If one has Apple/Samsung pay, one need not carry the credit card.
Do you use a credit card which was issued to you long back (say in 2015). It doesn’t have NFC feature.
But you can still make contactless payments. How?
By using the Mobile APP of Apple/Samsung.
[Note: Apple Pay does not work in India]
These App’s takes the credit card data.
Using this data, the mobile phone, which is NFC enabled, acts like a “Contactless Credit Card”.
So what these App’s does, they enable a non-NFC card to make contactless payments.
Once the Apple/Samsung Pay App has the credit card data, it makes the card usage optional.
One can still use the card for making large value payments (more than Rs.2,000).
But for small values, contactless payments would be more convenient, right?
NFC enabled contactless credit card is safe?
If payments gets executed without any physical contact, then there must be a risk of fraud?
The answer is both yes and no.
Yes, because payments can happen without contact.
So payment can happen without we knowing it? It is very unlikely.
The payments can happen when two NFC enabled device comes in close vicinity of few centimeters.
This is really close. As soon as something comes so close to us, we immediately become aware.
So it very unlikely that such payments will happen without our knowledge.
Moreover, RBI has allowed to effect contactless payments only after authentication PIN is entered by the card holder.
User can also protect their NFC cards in another way?
One can use “sleeves” that covers NFC enabled credit cards.
These sleeves are so designed that it deflects the radio frequency.
Such sleeves are available on Amazon etc.
Search for “RFID Blocking Credit Card Sleeves” on Amazon you will get your product.
What about data theft?
Is it possible that someone can steal the credit card data using NFC card reader?
Once the person has the card details, he/she can use the card anyways. This is a big threat, right?
One easy way to protect data theft is by the use of “Sleeves”.
But is it all? We are dependent only on sleeves to protect data theft? That’s too crude, right?
What happens if sleeves are not good enough?
Do not worry, data transfer using NFC technology is also encrypted.
Even if someone steals the data, as it is encrypted, it cannot be read.
It is like asking a Native American to read Sanskrit. 🙂
There is one more protection. Sorry but this is also a raw one.
But it is better to know about it.
Suppose you have two NFC enables cards in your wallet.
If someone mischievously brings the NFC card reader close to your wallet (to steal the data) nothing will happen. Why?
Because NFC readers cannot read multiple NFC cards at a time. It works only solo.
As one carries multiple cards in ones wallet, card readers will fail to decipher one card from the other.
What will happen when NFC enabled credit card is lost?
Now this is a problem.
Our traditional cards need, entry of security PIN even while making a payment as small as Rs.10.
But in NFC enabled card, PIN entry below Rs.2,000 is not necessary.
What to do now?
In USA, UK, Australia PIN entry is not necessary.
But in India, RBI has made the PIN entry mandatory for all amounts.
Hence in India, even if the NFC card is stolen, it cannot be used.
For others, one must report and block the stolen card immediately.
There is not other way out.
NFC Enabled Contactless Credit Cards in India
A.1) CITI BANK.
- CITI CASH BACK CREDIT CARD (Contactless – NFC Enabled).
A.2) ICICI Bank.
- Coral Paywave Contactless Debit Card.
- NFC POCKETS APP by ICICI Bank (only on Android Phones).
- ICICI Bank Expressions Paywave NFC Card.
- SBI Signature Contactless Card.
- sbiINTOUCH Tap & Go Debit Card.
- SBI STYLEUP Contactless Credit Card.
- SimplyCLICK SBI Credit Card with Contactless Technology.
A.4) HDFC Bank
- Regalia Credit Card (Contactless Card).
A.5) Kotak Mahindra Bank
- Royale Signature Credit Card (Contactless Card).
A.6) IndusInd Bank
A.7) Standard Chartered
- 360 Degree Reward Platinum Visa/Master Credit Card (Contactless).
A.8) American Express Credit Cards are Contactless.
- The Platinum Card.
- Jet Airways Platinum Card.
- Platinum Travel Card.
Experts say that contactless credit card takes one tenth time to effect payment.
If a normal credit card takes two minute, contactless credit card will take only 12 seconds.
This is as quick as cash payments.
At present all credit card needs PIN number authentication to execute payment.
RBI has not diluted this rule for contactless credit card.
But it is under discussion that for payments below Rs 2,000, RBI may remove the precondition of PIN number authentication.
It is said that if infrastructure & safety is in place, cent per cent customers will prefer to change the traditional credit card to contactless one.