THE upper limit of contactless payments is to increase within days as more steps are taken to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Payments of up to £30 can be made under the current system.

This will increase to £45 from April 1.

The move should reduce the need for customers to enter their pin number at the tills.

Smartphone users with Apple Pay can already make transactions of more than £30 in some instances, depending on the policy of specfic retailers.  While Apple Pay does not put a limit on individual spends, some traders have their own maximum value in place.

Andrew Cregan, head of payments policy at the British Retail Consortium, commented: “The last contactless limit increase to £30 took two years to implement but, given the extraordinary circumstances we face today, this new £45 limit will be rolled out from next week.

“Some shops will take longer to make the necessary changes, given the strain they’re under. In the meantime, most customers can continue to make contactless payments for higher amounts using their smartphone.”

Meanwhile, people using cash machines and handing over money are urged to take hygiene precautions.

ATM network link has reported a 50% drop in demand and recommends that people wash their hands as soon as possible after using devices or handling notes.

It says it is working closely with its members, regulators, industry bodies and others to ensure consumers can still access their cash during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Link chief executive John Howells said: “These are difficult and challenging times, but I would like to reassure everyone that Link remains as committed as ever to ensuring people can continue to access their cash.

“I and the whole Link board would also like to thank our members and the many, many people who are working hard behind the scenes to keep the ATM network going.”

Consumer group Which? has expressed concerns that some people may be left unable to pay for the basics they need if some businesses decide to ask for card-only payments.

Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which?, said: “It’s understandable that some shops may ask customers for card-only payments to reduce the risk of transmitting the coronavirus, but we are concerned this will leave many vulnerable people unable to pay for the basics they need.

“Both the government and retailers need to find a way to ensure that the millions of people who rely on cash, and may not have a bank card, can still pay for essentials during this difficult time.”

And Peter McNamara, chief executive of ATM provider NoteMachine, commented: “People are shopping for elderly and vulnerable neighbours, friends and families, and a lot of these shopping trips will need to be made with cash.

“Even before Covid-19, many of society’s most vulnerable already had a heavy reliance on cash.

“Removing this payment method at such a critical time would be a devastating blow to many people.”