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Update: The Hilton American Express Ascend Card is now the Hilton Surpass® Card from American Express and is offering a limited-time bonus of 130,000 bonus points + a free weekend night through August 28, 2019.
Contactless cards are EMV chip cards that use NFC (near-field communication) for proximity payments that don’t require you to insert your credit card chip when you make a purchase. 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.
Back in December, TPG predicted that contactless cards would go through a growth period throughout 2019, and it’s beginning to look like that will be the case. The technology is certainly not new to the international marketplace — much of Europe and Australia have been taking advantage of contactless cards for years. However, they’ve been slow to catch on in the US.
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 an average of 30 seconds by inserting an EMV chip only takes an average of 15 seconds when you go contactless. This helps consumers save time and lets retailers serve more customers in a day. I know an additional 15 seconds may not seem like a big deal, but added up over the course of a week or a month? That’s a lot of time saved.
There are multiple reasons why the US has been behind the curve on adopting contactless payments, with the main reason being that US retailers have been slow to switch their point-of-sale terminals and hardware to be able to accept them. However, as mobile payment options have become more popular, retailers are upgrading their systems to accommodate for contactless payments.
Another hesitation, on the consumer side, has been security. A common misconception about NFC payment technology is that it’s easy for thieves to steal your credit card information 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 payment 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 pretty unlikely itself).
As more Americans recognize the benefits of using both mobile wallets and contactless cards, more issuers are rolling out cards with contactless capabilities.
Contactless Credit Cards Currently Available in the US
Most major credit card issuers in the US have started the switch to contactless cards (Barclaycard US, Bank of America and Discover are the last holdouts). I would guess that by the end of 2019, pretty much any credit card will have the option for card holders to go contactless. In the meantime, here’s a list of our favorite cards with tap-and-go capabilities from each issuer.
Rewards: You’ll get 4x points on dining and at US supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in US supermarket purchases; then 1x), 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through the Amex Travel portal, and 1x points on everything else.
Welcome bonus: 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 in purchases within your first 3 months with the card. Some people are getting targeted offers online for a 50,000-point welcome bonus, but there is no guarantee that offer is available to everyone, and it is subject to change at anytime.
Annual fee: $250 (see rates & fees)
Why we love it: While the Amex Gold sometimes gets overlooked in favor of 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 and US supermarket spendings (up to $25,000 per year; then 1x for US supermarkets). 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, 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), personalize travel service, access to The Hotel Collection (including a $100 hotel credit to spend on qualifying expenses), a $100 airline fee credit and more.
Other contactless cards from American Express:
- The Platinum Card from American Express
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
- Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
- Hilton Honors American Express Card
- American Express Cash Magnet® Card
- American Express® Business Gold Card
- Hilton Honors American Express Business Card
- Amazon Business Prime American Express Card
- Amazon Business American Express Card
These are the cards that come contactless-enabled by default. A representative from Amex confirmed that you can also request a contactless-enabled version of any US consumer card by logging in to your account or calling the number on the back of your card.
Rewards: You’ll get 2x miles on every purchase, plus 10x miles on hotel bookings paid with your card and booked via Hotels.com/Venture.
Welcome bonus: 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 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. Plus, for those who book hotels often, that 10x miles bonus on eligible Hotels.com purchases is a great return on spending. It’s a really 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) — that’s a feature you don’t find on many mid-tier travel cards.
Other contactless cards from Capital One:
- Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One Savor Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One SavorOne Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
Rewards: Earn 2x points on all travel and dining purchases; 1x points on all other spending.
Welcome bonus: 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 within the first 3 months. If you redeem for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal, this bonus is worth $750.
Annual fee: $95
Why we love it: Personally, this is my favorite travel rewards card available. 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 I would only get 1x points on 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:
- AARP Credit Card from Chase
- British Airways Visa Signature Card
- Chase Freedom
- Chase Freedom Unlimited
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Chase Slate Credit Card
- Disney Premier Visa Card
- Disney Visa Card
- World of Hyatt Credit Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
- Starbucks Rewards Visa Card
- United Explorer Card
- United TravelBank Card
- United MileagePlus Card
- United Club Card
- United Explorer Business Card
Contactless-enabled versions of these cards coming soon:
- Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card
- Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card
- Ink Business Cash Credit Card
- Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
Rewards: Earn 2x points at supermarkets and gas stations (on the first $6,000 spent annually); 1x points 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 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 or Citi Prestige. You can easily rack up points on those small, everyday purchases (which are situations 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 back in February just to use on my small purchase—my daily iced latte and in-app purchases, mainly. It has yet to disappoint.
Other contactless cards from Citi:
A representative from Citi confirmed that only the Rewards+ and the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi are contactless.
Rewards: 3x points on dining, gas stations, ride shares, transit and travel (which includes flights, hotels, homesteads and car rentals); 1x points on other purchases.
Welcome bonus: 30,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 within 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 shares 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.
- 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
Featured image courtesy of Getty Images.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, click here.
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