How secure are NFC contactless payments?

After a video that went viral on social media a few years ago created the impression that criminals could tap your card by simply holding a card payment terminal close to it, many people became skeptical about the safety of contactless card use. “This is simply not true. Contactless payment cards are as secure as traditional cards, and SABRIC has not received any reported crime incidents where ‘tap and go’ cards have been exploited,” said Kalyani Pillay, CEO of SABRIC (The South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC)

The technology used to Tap the card (known as NFC) requires very close contact with the device in order to retrieve the card information, and a PIN is required where transactions exceed a certain size limit, making the process very secure for cardholders.

In this blog article, we’d like to educate you on the use and convenience that contactless transacting can bring to your daily purchases and to your business.

Firstly, what is NFC?

NFC (near-field communication) allows devices to wirelessly transfer data back and forth, similar to how Bluetooth works, just with a much shorter distance between the devices. NFC technology makes contactless payments possible between credit cards & mobile devices or mobile devices to mobile devices as is the case with Samsung Pay or FNB Pay. Contactless card transacting has been around in several countries for many years, although fairly new to South Africa. It was designed to make it convenient for cardholders and merchants as it can reduce queues and helps with the current COVID19 Pandemic as it minimizes contact between merchant and cardholder.

How to check if your card machine is enabled for contactless card transactions

If you have any of the WAPPoint devices, you can activate their tap function by following these steps:
  • For an Altech Magic M4 Device – Press the # key before you start your sale
  • For any Nedbank PrintPOS – Press the yellow button before you start your sale
  • For the Pocket Pro device – Open the Nedbank Pocket POS App and login. Click on “Start Transaction”
  • For Tap on Phone – Go to your smartphone’s settings, search NFC and activate it. Then open the Nedbank Pocket POS App and login. Click on “Tap on Phone”.

Frequently asked questions:

Can criminals steal my card information?

Inside your smartphone is an NFC chip that is constructed in such a way that the chip is not capable to access other data on your phone.

South African issued contactless cards are embedded with an RFID (Radio Frequency ID) tag, identifiable by the WiFi-type symbol, which is then read together with the card’s EMV chip which is encrypted.

Even if a criminal tapped a victim’s contactless card using an NFC POS device near in their wallet or bag, all they would get is the card number and expiry date. Neither the CVV nor the PIN number would be exposed, both of which the criminal would need to make fraudulent online purchases.

Meaning it is not possible for the NFC chip to autonomously receive data from your phone to send it to other parties. Many also believe that people can read sensible data on smartphones by scanning the chip while just passing by. As the data on the chip is completely separated from other data on your smartphone, it is not possible.


Can someone deduct money from my card while standing close to me?

In order for the payment app to deduct money from the customer’s card, the amount needs to be entered into the app and then the chip part of the card needs to be in very close proximity (as in millimeters) to the card machine or smartphone by scanning for the NFC chip, without any material or restrictions between the two. The payment app times out if you take too long and you must enter the amount and do the process over again. Therefore this scenario is not possible.

If my card is stolen, can someone start spending my money?

As the NFC is completely contactless, no card pin is needed on transactions below a certain limit, however, if someone steals your card and starts tapping away, you will be notified by your bank of transactions being made on your card and you can stop your card immediately. The bank will also pick up on suspicious activity if your spending patterns differ suddenly and notify the fraud department to block your card from further transactions.

Introducing Nedbank’s Tap on phone service

Now you can accept card transactions using only your smartphone. We’re partnered with Nedbank to provide merchants with their latest product, “Tap on Phone”, which allows you to accept card payments using just a smartphone – letting your business grow without limits. No need to change your banking to Nedbank, simply sign up using your existing bank account with any bank. With the use of the App, a merchant can Tap the customer’s card on the bank of his/her smartphone as long as the phone and the card are enabled for NFC transactions so you don’t need any other card machine, your phone is the card machine in totality. Read More



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