Visa payWave: Security for Contactless Payments

Contactless payments technology continues to expand globally, and the number of NFC-enabled devices in use is expected to top 500 million next year according to ABI Research.  Visa expects NFC and other chip-based technologies will help drive future payment innovations.

Visa payWave, the secure contactless payment technology, helps cardholders speed through checkout without having to make physical contact with a payment terminal through their NFC-enabled phones or their contactless cards. With Visa payWave, available globally on debit and credit cards and NFC-enabled mobile devices, a consumer simply holds his or her card or phone in front a contactless terminal in order to pay.

Visa payWave transactions are around three times faster than paying with cash, and they meet all the same security standards as traditional debit and credit cards. Every transaction is protected by multiple layers of security:

• First, Visa payWave-enabled cards and mobile devices must be in a specific position and within two inches of a merchant’s terminal in order for card information to be transmitted.

• Second, each contactless transaction includes a unique code that changes with each purchase – and it’s different from the one encoded on the magnetic stripe of a Visa card. So if a criminal attempted to use intercepted data to manufacture a counterfeit card, the bank that issued the card would be able to immediately identify the fraudulent transaction.

• Finally, because Visa payWave transactions are processed through VisaNet – the same reliable network as swipe transactions – Visa continuously monitors for suspicious activity, allowing us to help identify and prevent fraud.

Several layers of security at the device, chip and the Visa network levels work in concert to help prevent unauthorized use of mobile-based Visa accounts. The technology that allows an NFC-enabled device to transmit transaction information wirelessly is only active during a transaction. Account data cannot be read wirelessly from the mobile device if the consumer has not activated the payment application and placed the device within inches of a reader.

Although Visa payWave has been used around the world since 2005, there have been no reports from law enforcement or financial institutions of fraudulent activity associated with contactless technology to date. Nevertheless, Visa remains vigilant in protecting cardholders.

As emerging forms of payment like Visa payWave continue to gain traction, Visa continues to invest in multiple layers of security to prevent, detect, and resolve unauthorized use of consumers’ information.