With more than 950 Million Debit cards and more than 40 Million Credit Card users, the concept of Card Payment is not new today in India. But most of us still think Debit Card means for ATM Cash Withdrawal. Though the situation and concept have been changing rapidly since the last couple of years after the Demonetisation. As per RBI’s vision Documents “Payments and Settlements Systems in India: Vision 2019-2021”, Government is pushing hard to make a “Cash-Lite” Digital Society. One of the main thrust of this 3 years roadmap is to increase the use of Offline Payment Mode and Contactless Card falls in this type of Digital Payments.
Contactless Debit or credit card is not a new concept in western countries, but in India, it is getting significance after RBI made the chip-based card mandatory since January 1, 2019. All the PSU Banks starts offering Chip-based Debit card replacing older magnetic strip Debit Card. The Finance Ministry also wants Banks should issue contactless debit or credit cards more to their customers. The Contactless card works on the concept of NFC Payments Technology.
Today, in this article, we will discuss some best Contactless Payments Apps in India and different types of NFC enabled devices and Cards available in the country now.
What are the Contactless Payments & How it Works?
The contactless payment system is not a new concept in several Western and Asian countries, more than 50 percent of payments are made using contactless Debit or Credit Card in these countries. But in India, the percentage is very small, although almost all retail outlets and shopping malls have the contactless reader installed on the PoS Machine.
Contactless payments mean you can send or receive money in digital form without any physical contact. The contactless payments can be between two devices or from a credit or debit card to any device. Contactless Payments is one kind of offline Digital Payments method where the money transfer between two linked bank account using the card-issuing company’s (Visa, Mastercard or Rupay) network. Obviously, both the devices need to be NFC(Near Field Communication) enabled to send or receive money in this payment method.
Now, let’s have some brief idea about NFC and How it works.
What is NFC Technology?
NFC or Near Field Communication Technology works at the backend to make any card or devices contactless. It is a technology where we can communicate between two NFC enabled devices similar to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. But the basic difference between these two technologies is that Bluetooth or Wi-Fi uses radio transmission while NFC utilizes Electromagnetic Radio Fields to transmit data.
NFC technology based on technology which communicates between NFC enabled devices is called RFID or Radio Frequency Identification. Further RFID method consists of three components, RFID tags, RFID reader and an antenna which transmit data to the RFID reader. RFID reader identifies & collects the data and sends it directly to the computer system without any human interference. This technology is called Automatic Identification and Data Capture or AIDC.
NFC devices can be Active or Passive. A passive NFC device such as an NFC tag can only electronically store data that other devices can read, but the NFC tag does not do anything itself. For example, NFC enabled credit card stores the customer’s information like Credit card Number, CVV, etc and it transmits the information to other NFC enabled devices to communicate.
An active NFC device can read, send and collect information from the NFC tag, it can also alter the data if authorized to do so. Therefore, to protect customer information, the NFC device in contactless payment systems establishes a secure & encrypted communication channel while transmitting the data from NFC tag to RFID reader installed in any PoS machine.
Now let’s see how NFC works in Contactless Payment systems.
How NFC works in Contactless Payment systems?
NFC can be used for many ways but here we will specifically discuss how NFC works in a Contactless payment system. As the name states itself, no physical contact is required between the two devices.
Your contactless credit or debit card is an NFC tag that contains various details like card number, CVV number, expiry date, etc. If you want to make a contactless payment, then you just have to Tap or hover the card on the RFID reader which is installed in front of the PoS Machine. The antenna catches the signal from the NFC tag and authorizes the payments from the secure network of card issuing company within a fraction of seconds.
The NFC uses a specific RFID frequency and it only works when the card and the reader are in proximity.
As per RBI norm, you don’t need to put your Debit or Credit card PIN or signature for authorizing any transaction below Rs.2000 in Contactless Payments.
Now coming back to the main topic, what are the best NFC Payments App and contactless cards available in India right now.
Best Contactless Payments Apps & Cards in India
NFC Payment Apps and Contactless payment systems are still not very widespread amongst the Indian, though it is already very popular in several western countries where more than 60 percent of the transaction is made using the contactless payments system. The reason is – it is faster and more secure.
Here is the list of some best Contactless Cards, NFC Payments Apps and NFC enabled smartphones available in India.
We will also update the list if more Contactless cards or NFC Payments Apps launched in the future.
Best Contactless Debit or Credit Cards in India
Mastercard, Visa, and Rupay are three main card issuers in India. Contactless cards are accepted in India’s all leading merchants and shopping malls.
Here’s the list of some Contactless Card issued by these companies.
1.# Mastercard Tap & Go
Mastercard is one of the biggest card-issuing Brands in the world and has World Wide presence. Mastercard also offers Contactless Credit or Debit Card in India partnering with almost all Indian Private and PSU banks. They offer three variants of Contactless Cards in India named Mastercard Tap & Go. You can find contactless-enabled Credit, Debit and Prepaid cards in India issued by Mastercard. The most important thing is that you can use the Mastercard “Tap & Go” contactless credit Card at any parts of the World, it will automatically convert currency for online shopping or ATM withdrawals.
Just check How Mastercard Tap & Go Contactless Card Works
2.# Visa payWave
Similar to Mastercard, Visa PayWave also offers Tap & Go contactless payments and the card also globally accepted. Currency conversion rate more or less the same as Mastercard. Most of the Indian Commercial Banks offer the Contactless Visa PayWave card and it is accepted more than 100000 merchants outlets across India. Visa cards also lead in the country’s Digital Payment and pioneered the concept of Contactless Payments in India’s Digital Payment’s landscape.
Currently, Visa is the largest Contactless Debit and Credit Card provider in India.
For details on Visa PayWave visit here. (Official Website)
3.# Rupay Contactless Card
Developed by NPCI, Rupay Contactless Card is an Indian alternative of global card issuing brands such as Visa or Mastercard. You can use Rupay Contactless card in all Indian merchant outlets by Tapping the card on PoS Machine. The main purpose of launching the Rupay Contactless card is to increase the volume of Digital Payments in Low Volume Transaction(LTV) amongst the common people. Almost all Indian PSU banks will initially offer you the Rupay based Contactless card. The main drawback of the Rupay card is that you can not use it in overseas countries for Contactless payments. Though you can use it for ATM withdrawals or online purchases in international eCommerce websites. I have already written a detailed article on How to use Rupay Card for international Payments, you can read the article here
For details on Rupay Contactless Cards Visit here.
4.# Paytm- Contactless Card
Paytm, India’s largest Digital Mobile wallet provider and has more than 60 percent market share in UPI merchant payment segments, also offers a Contactless payment card, named as Taptopay. The card can be issued only at designated venues at the time of ticket purchase, or online where tickets were sold on Paytm. It is a kind prepaid card which contactless in nature.
Paytm recently has launched Co-branded Credit Card with Citi Bank named as Paytm First Card. This Card is also contactless and Powered by Visa. You can use Paytm First Card internationally with offers and benefits both from Paytm and Citi bank.
5.# National Common Mobility Card (NCMC)
Contactless smart card launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), Government of India on 4 March 2019. National Common Mobility Card is also known as One Nation One Card, maintained by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) and it is Rupay Powered. The RFID reader is developed by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). Visa and Mastercard may also start to provide NCMC partnering with Indian Banks.
The NCMC card is a Debit/Credit card that can be used to make payment for transport anywhere in the country, like Metro, Bus, sub-urban railways, toll-plaza, parking, etc. The card can also be used in the existing retail PoS terminal without conflicting RFID readers.
How to know your card is Contactless or Not?
You will find a symbol similar to Wi-Fi at any side of your Debit or Credit Card.
Can you deactivate the contactless option of your card?
You can not deactivate the contactless option of your debit or credit card, only your card issuing bank can do that. If you don’t want the contactless payment option, then simply ask your card issuing bank to deactivate it by submitting a written application.
Best Contactless Payments Apps in India
Contactless Payments Apps work similarly to contactless Debit/Credit card, where you don’t have to carry physical cards, instead your smartphone works as your Contactless Payment Card.
Due to RBI’s data localization norms popular NFC Payment Apps like Apple Pay or Paypal Pay may not start Contactless NFC Payments service in India soon. Currently, Samsung Pay is technically the only App operates using the NFC Payment technology.
Here’s the list of some best Contactless Payments Apps in India you can install on your smartphone.
1.# Samsung Pay
Samsung Pay is a higher-end Samsung Galaxy Phone specific Payment Apps available on the Android Play store. The App works on offline Payment mode using Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST) and Near Field Communication (NFC) technology.
Samsung Pay uses Digital tokenization to authenticate the Payment similar to Apple Pay. Your actual Credit or Debit card number will be replaced by randomly generated encrypted digital Number which is called token. Therefore, your actual card details will never be exposed to anyone. The actual card details also never are stored in the Phone. Similar to the contactless card, you have to Tap or swipe the phone over Contactless PoS Machine, authenticate the payment with Touch ID or PIN.
Samsung Pay currently supports Galaxy S9+, Galaxy S9, Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, Galaxy S7 Edge, Galaxy S7, Note 5, Galaxy S6 edge+, Galaxy A7(2017), Galaxy A5(2017), Galaxy A7(2016), Galaxy A5(2016) & Galaxy A9 Pro. You can register for Samsung Pay with your existing Samsung ID.
You can add any of the Indian Private and PSU Bank’s Credit /Debit card or Paytm Wallet. The App also supports UPI Payments.
2.# Google Pay
Google Pay is one of the most innovative and popular UPI Payment App in India. The App also has a contactless payment facility where you can send or receive money by using phone’s Mic.
Google Pay is not actually using the NFC technology, it uses offline Audio QR technology to pair between two nearby devices. The App uses ultra high-frequency sound waves through the phone’s Mic to communicate with nearby devices. Therefore, NFC or Bluetooth technology is not required to use the Google Pay App. Though Android Pay App uses the NFC technology, but not available in India.
Download Google Pay.
3.# Pockets by ICICI Bank
ICICI Bank’s Pockets is also a very popular mobile wallet cum Digital Banking Account in India, integrates several services in a single Payment App. The App also has similar Audio QR payment features like Google Pay called Tonetag.
Tonetag uses the patented sound wave technology to enable contactless digital payments. Any merchant can enable Tonetag on PoS Machine and receive payments via sound wave, only you need Tonetag SDK to integrate with the device (POS or Phone).
Ultracash is another innovative mobile payment app that works using the sound wave Audio QR technology. You can pay the bill at any merchant outlet with Ultracash “Tap & Pay” option. You do not carry a wallet or physical cards, just you have to add your Credit/Debit card with Ultracash App.
The Ultracash utilizes Patent-pending Audio NFC technology where you can send money to another device just selecting the “Tap & Pay” option. The App does not require any internet connectivity or NFC technology to make contactless digital payments.
The App does not have any mobile wallet option and all the major Indian Bank’s cards support Ultrafast Contactless Payment App.
Just check here how Ultracash Payment App works
5.# My FASTag App
FASTag is an automated toll payment technology developed by the National Payment Corporation of India to directly debit the toll from a linked debit or prepaid account. FASTag uses RFID technology for making payments directly from the bank account. From December 1, 2019, FASTag to be made mandatory at all National Highways. All leading banks in India are issuing FASTag for their customers. You can purchase a FASTag RFID tag from 23 live banks at a cost of Rs.100.00.
FASTag offers a cashless and convenient toll collection and saves the fuel at Toll Plazas across National Highways. At present 450 toll plazas support the FASTag payments.
For details information on FASTag, you may visit the dedicated page of SBI FASTag here.
My FASTag App developed by Indian Highways Management Company Ltd and only available for Android devices. Once installed, you can recharge your FASTag using UPI Payment.
Download My FASTag App for Android.
With the revolutionization of mobile Payment technology, Contactless Payments is the future of India’s Digital Payment Systems. Though Indian still depends on physical cash for Low-Value retail transactions. With the implementation and acceptance of several Contactless Payments Apps & technology and Govt. of India’s thrust on the “Digital India” campaign, we definitely expect a changed India within the next few years.
The Payments Apps and Cards as discussed above, are currently the best and only available Contactless Payments option in India.
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