Best contactless credit cards: Tap to pay

Mar 21, 2020

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest credit card information.

Contactless credit cards are cards that don’t require you to insert your card chip when you make a purchase. These cards use EMV chip technology (chip security developed for Europay, Mastercard and Visa but now used by many cards) with NFC (near-field communication) for proximity payments. Cards with contactless capabilities can be used like a standard chip credit card or for “tap-and-go” payments similar to Apple Pay and Google Pay purchases.

(Photo courtesy of Betsie Van der Meer via Getty images.)
(Photo courtesy of Betsie Van der Meer via Getty images)

In December 2018, TPG predicted that contactless cards would go through a growth period in 2019 and it’s looking like that is the case months into 2020. The technology is certainly not new to the international marketplace — contactless cards have been in use in much of Europe and Australia for years. However, they’ve been slow to catch on in the U.S.

Most major credit card issuers in the U.S. have started the switch to contactless cards. I would guess that by the end of 2020, almost any credit card will have the option for cardholders to go contactless. In the meantime, here’s a list of our favorite cards with tap-and-go capabilities from each issuer.

In This Post

American Express contactless cards

Featured card: American Express® Gold Card

(Photo by Eden Batki / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eden Batki/The Points Guy)

Rewards: You’ll get 4x points on dining worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year, then 1 point per dollar spent), 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through the Amex Travel portal, and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else.

Welcome bonus: 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within your first three months with the card. Some people are getting targeted offers online for a 50,000-point welcome bonus (check using the CardMatch tool), but there is no guarantee that offer is available to everyone and it is subject to change at anytime.

Annual fee: $250 (see rates and fees)

Why we love it: Although the Amex Gold sometimes is overlooked in favor of the The Platinum Card® from American Express, it’s still a knockout card. For those who are looking for contactless cards to use on everyday expenses, the Gold actually outshines the Platinum with its rewards structure. It’s got something for just about everyone.

Families and foodies alike can rack up a lot of points with 4x points on dining worldwide and U.S. supermarket spending. Frequent flyers are still getting 3x points on eligible travel. Plus, the card also offers some great perks: a $10 statement credit each month for Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations (which comes in handy when you first get to your destination and just want to order in and crash at your hotel), personalized travel service, access to The Hotel Collection (including a hotel credit of up to $100 to spend on qualifying expenses), a credit of up to $100 on airline fees and more.

Other contactless cards from American Express:

These cards come contactless-enabled by default. A representative from Amex confirmed that you can also request a contactless-enabled version of any U.S. consumer card by logging in to your account or calling the number on the back of your card.

Bank of America contactless cards

Featured card: Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card

Rewards: Earn 2x points on travel and dining, plus 1.5x points on all other purchases. Existing Bank of America customers who qualify for the Preferred Rewards program can earn up to 3.5x on travel and dining, plus 2.65x on all other purchases.

Welcome bonus: You’ll receive 50,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days of account opening.

Annual fee: $95

Why we love it: If you qualify for the Preferred Rewards program with Bank of America, the Premium Rewards Card offers a lucrative earning potential for such a low annual fee. Most cards that offer annual travel credits cost hundreds of dollars in membership fees annually. For just $95, you’ll get a solid earning rate (or a great one, if you are a Preferred Rewards member with Bank of America), a $100 airline fee credit, a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit and some nice travel protections.

Other contactless cards from Bank of America: Unfortunately, contactless cards are only available in select cities in the U.S., including New York, Boston and San Fransisco, according to reports by Doctor of Credit. A few TPG team members have received new Bank of America cards in the mail that are contactless-enabled, but I haven’t seen a widespread rollout for customers outside of these pilot cities.

Capital One contactless cards

Featured card: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

(Photo by The Points Guy)

Rewards: You’ll get 2x miles on every purchase.

Welcome bonus: 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months of account opening

Annual fee: $95 (waived first year)

Why we love it: The Venture offers a simple way to rack up a lot of miles on everyday purchases. It’s a great beginner travel card that also comes with some nice perks, such as a statement credit for your Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee (up to $100) — a feature you don’t find on many mid-tier travel cards.

Other contactless cards from Capital One:

The information for the Venture Card and VentureOne Card and Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Chase contactless cards

Featured card: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

(Image by The Points Guy)

Rewards: Earn 2x points on all travel and dining purchases and 1 point per dollar spent on all other spending.

Welcome bonus: 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 within the first three months. If you redeem for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal, this bonus is worth $750.

Annual fee: $95

Why we love it: This is my favorite travel rewards card. It’s got an awesome welcome bonus offer right now and Chase Ultimate Rewards are incredibly valuable compared to most other loyalty currencies. Chase defines both travel and dining very loosely, which means I can hit those bonus categories for a number of purchases that would earn only 1 point per dollar spent with other cards. If you’re looking for a solid beginner travel card to help you get started in the points-and-miles game, it’s hard to beat the CSP.

Other contactless cards from Chase:

*The information for these cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Citi contactless cards

Featured card: Citi Rewards+℠ Card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Rewards: Earn 2x points at supermarkets and gas stations (on the first $6,000 spent annually, then 1 point per dollar spent), and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Plus, your rewards are rounded up to the nearest 10 on every purchase.

Welcome bonus: 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Annual fee: None

Why we love it: The round-up feature is something no other credit card offers. This is an excellent card to pair with the Citi Premier℠ Card or Citi Prestige® Card. You can easily rack up points on small, everyday purchases (where a contactless card is most beneficial), and then transfer them to your Citi Premier or Prestige account so you can maximize their redemption value. I got this card in February just to use on small purchases — my daily iced latte and in-app purchases, mainly. It has lived up to my expectations.

The information for the Citi Premier and Citi Prestige cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Wells Fargo contactless cards

Featured card: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card*

Rewards: 3x points on dining, gas stations, ride-hailing, transit and travel (which includes flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals), and 1 point per dollar spent on other purchases.

Welcome bonus: 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first three months.

Annual fee: None

Why we love it: For a no-annual-fee card, the Propel has a great rewards structure. Those who live in the city and spend a lot each month on ride-hailing services and transit will be hard-pressed to find a card that offers a better return on those purchases. Beginners who don’t travel often, but want the option to redeem at a decent rate for travel will find a lot of value with the Propel.

Other contactless cards from Wells Fargo. A representative confirmed that all Wells Fargo cards are now contactless-enabled, including:

  • Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card*
  • Wells Fargo Visa Signature® Card*
  • Wells Fargo Rewards Card*
  • Wells Fargo Platinum Card*
  • Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card* (Note: you must have an existing Wells Fargo relationship to apply for this card online)
  • Wells Fargo Secured Credit Card*

*The information for these cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

What are the benefits of contactless cards?

The most obvious benefit of using contactless cards — both for consumers and retailers — is speed. A transaction that might take 30 seconds by inserting an EMV chip only takes an average of 15 seconds when you go contactless. This saves time and lets retailers serve more customers in a day.

The U.S. has been behind the curve on adopting contactless payments, mainly because U.S. retailers have been slow to switch their point-of-sale terminals and hardware to accept them. However, as mobile payment options have become more popular, retailers are upgrading their systems to accommodate contactless payments.

On the consumer side, there was concern about security. A common misconception about NFC payment technology is that it’s easy for thieves to steal your credit card information by getting close to your card with a reader. The reality is that contactless payments are just as secure as if you insert your chip into a reader.

Each transaction produces a one-time code rather than the same info being sent each time you pay, so someone wouldn’t be able to steal your card information for future transactions even if they got close enough to your card with a reader (which is unlikely).

Bottom line

As more Americans recognize the benefits of using both mobile wallets and contactless cards, more issuers are rolling out more cards with contactless capabilities. Don’t be surprised if you get a contactless-enabled card when you renew or apply for new credit cards from these issuers.

Additional reporting by Max Prosperi and Liz Hund.

Featured image courtesy of Getty Images.

For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, click here.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.