Gareth Huw Davies

technology / Technology

Contactless limit up to £45 to help contain spread of COVID-19

Redemption Roasters – contactless cafe.

This is what a WHO spokesperson said, in reply to a question about whether banknotes could be spreading the new coronavirus: “Yes it’s possible and it’s a good question. We know that money changes hands frequently and can pick up all sorts of bacteria and viruses … when possible it’s a good idea to use contactless payments”. Source –



UK payment providers have decided to raise the contactless payment limit to £45.

The World Health Organisation now recommends using cards whenever possible, as cash frequently changes hands and is more likely to carry viruses and bacteria. Even without firm evidence, paying for things without making contact must be a sound precautionary principle.

A necessary step, said Matt Crate, MD of WeSwap, a peer-to-peer currency exchange platform. “The rapid spread of COVID-19 meant we had to take every measure available to avoid unnecessary contact.”

I was in The Grocer at 15 cafe in Amersham in February, where they had just gone over to contactless-only payments. Anticipating the imminent rapid spread of the virus was the principal reason. I came across another contactless cafe, Redemption Roasters in Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross in January. I felt I was an insignificant player in an event of profound history as I sipped my Americano. The first coins appeared around 600 BC. (Sadly both cafes are shut, anyway)

I’ve been an enthusiastic contactless customer for several years. My only reason for occasionally reverting to coins and notes is an illogical one, a sort of perverse nostalgia for using cash. And then the cashier has to give you change, when you could’ve saved the him and her the trouble. It is no longer necessary, just as we no longer send messages attached to pigeons’ legs. So why do it?

I know exactly where we were when we made our first contactless payment. It was in the cafe at the eastbound service station on the M4 in Swansea. Something like 2015. Actually it was my wife who did that. My card hadn’t yet been upgraded. 

Now I hardly ever use cash for anything under £30. Recently, even before the the outbreak, that limit was beginning to feel too low. With the outbreak it seems hazardously low. People buying fuel at the petrol station can just about fill a tank for £45 pounds these days. (How many people have been infected at petrol pumps?) And £45 is good enough for two people’s supermarket shopping for a few days.

I hope, too, the cost to the retailer of using the system will be be lifted. My local shop still tells me I can’t do contactless for under £5. (I just heard that a friend still buys his daily paper there using cash.)

Matt Crate of WeSwap, said: “Using cash puts you in close proximity to other people, potentially assisting the spread of coronavirus. Conversely, using a card allows you to distance yourself from others. Cards are easily disinfected and the process itself requires no physical touching.

“We are already well equipped to use contactless as our primary payment option. Avoiding cash and embracing contactless is a contribution we can all make.”

WeSwap is a peer-to-peer currency exchange platform.