Any fears you may have about the security of contactless (“tap and go”) bank cards, in the wake of a video that has been doing the rounds on social media, are unwarranted, the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) says 

“A video trending on social media may have created the incorrect impression that contactless cards are easy to exploit by criminals. 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,” says Kalyani Pillay, Sabric’s chief executive.

Contactless payment technology is relatively new in South Africa, but has been available in many jurisdictions for some time. These cards can merely be tapped on a point-of-sale device enabled by near-field communication (NFC) to make payments, which is quick and easy for the card holder. 

Videos online suggest that criminals can steal money or card data by tapping an NFC-enabled device near your bank card, but Sabric says this is unlikely. Acquiring such a device involves a rigorous vetting process by the issuing bank, it says. 

Banks also monitor merchant transaction activity and conduct merchant site visits. Furthermore, this payment option is available only for a predetermined number of low-value transactions on any specific day, after which a PIN is required, so the financial reward associated with these transactions is low, Sabric says.

Stealing data is also not a viable option, Sabric says, as merely holding an NFC-enabled point-of-sale device close to a bank card will not provide enough information to enable fraudulent card-not-present transactions.

“It is unlikely that criminals will be targeting this capability to steal money or card data, as the reward will be insignificant compared with other modus operandi at their disposal,” Pillay says.