All new credit and debit cards issued by First National Bank (FNB) will be contactless “tap-enabled”, the bank announced this week. This means that FNB customers will be able to tap their cards at selected merchants and pay for purchases of under R200 without their cards leaving their hands.

The bank started issuing contactless cards in May last year and already has more than one million in the market, according to a media release.

The benefits of contactless cards are twofold, namely: convenience and safety, Chris Labuschagne, the chief executive of FNB Credit Card, says.

“Payments are around a third faster than normal PIN-based transactions, meaning less time spent in queues. And the fact that the customer’s card never leaves their hand gives a greater level of security,” Labuschagne says.

Additional security features include encryption technology, which protects the card’s contactless data from reproduction, and the fact that customers are required to enter their PIN after a number of “taps” to verify the transaction.

Currently, PIN-less transactions are limited to under R200 and clients who want to use a contactless card for more than R200 per transaction will be required to tap and enter their PIN.

“Contactless payments are useful for smaller, everyday purchases, such as a morning coffee or nipping to the shops for bread and milk. These purchases are usually made on the ‘fly’ where quick, painless payment options are very welcome,” Labuschagne says.

FNB data shows that customers using tap functionality tend to favour the same fuel or coffee retailer, and “tap” for an average of R60 each time.

Although the number of contactless transactions has increased steadily over the past year, the number of customers using the technology has risen sharply, doubling since February.

“We are expecting to see much wider adoption as customers become accustomed to the contactless technology, and more merchants are geared towards these types of payments,” Labuschagne says.