Baci e abbracci, I love Italy because Italy literally loves me. Every time, I meet up with a friend, new or old, I know the conversation is going to begin with a hug and a kiss. And when we say good bye, we repeat the ritual with maybe a little more fanfare. Close contact and intimacy are part of being Italian, which is why contactless in Italy may seem a bit odd. In actuality, contactless in Italy has nothing to do with missing out on a hug or kiss, and everything to do with your wallet. It’s a simplified payment system that is making my mornings at Caffe Roscioli about easier and faster. If you don't know what I'm talking about, it's about time to follow my Instagram stories.
Almost every morning, I grab a latte macchiato and granatina (a small Roman pastry) at Caffe Roscioli, my neighborhood bar and the best thing that’s happened to the Campo de’ Fioriin this decade. Almost two years ago, bakers delicatessen owners and brothers Pierlugi and Alessandro Roscioli took over an the site of a run door/historic bar, renovating it into a modern coffee shop, serving coffee drinks from Giamaica caffe, the relatively exclusive Italian torrefazione, and Roscioli's own specialty sweet and savory confections. As you can imagine, the pastries and sandwiches are made on site, daily, and every taste is delicious. In the late afternoons, Roscioli changes the vibe to an aperitivo hangout featuring craft cocktails and food delicacies straight from its salumeria. There is, however, one downside- the architectural design is cumbersome. Long and narrow space means a tight squeeze at the counter and the cashier (niched at the entrance), and an uncomfortable wait when it comes time to pay. Here’s how I make my life just a little bit easier - by going contactless, in other words a ten-second turn-around - five seconds to key in the amount, five seconds for processing- and I’m already out the door. . .
All the questions I asked myself as I tested out Contactless in Rome:
What the heck is a contactless payment? A secure payment method (via debit, credit or smartcards/chip cards) using near field communicationNFC, essentially digital communication protocols allowing two electronic devices to transmit to each other. Or, as I like to say, an intimate, finite conversation between your card and a point of sale POS terminal.
How do I know if I have a contactless credit card? Take a good look at your Mastercard, and any other card you have in your wallet. If there is a symbol in the upper right corner - four frequency waves - you've got contact, or better yet you have a contactless-enable card and can make contactless payments.
How does it work? Next time you are about to make a payment, whether at Roscioli or anywhere else, look for the Contactless symbol on the POS terminal and let the cashier know you will use a contactless-enabled card. Once ready, bring your card within very close proximity to the POS terminal and wait for the beep. Payment is automatically transmitted. No need to insert, no need to sign. Best of all, your card never leaves your hand, and encryption protects your data.
If my card is "communicating", does that mean once I make a payment it will automatically communicate with other devices like what sometimes happens when I use blue tooth? Nope, communication is secured, encrypted and limited to POS terminal and your card, nothing else.
Is it true that there a maximum or limit to what I can purchase contactless? 25 euro is the maximum amount before the POS requests additional security, i.e. signature or pin code. In my experience, whereas many Rome-based vendors are aware that contactless payments can still be processed for amounts superior to 25 euro by simply asking you to sign or enter pin without physically taking your card out of your hand, there are still some vendors who don’t understand how Contactless works. These vendors will either tell you that contactless does not work for amounts superior to 25 euro or will ask you to submit your card to them, and then process payment in the traditional method. It may be up to you to educate the vendors on how contactless works with amounts more than 25 euro.
Where can I use it and what if my card is not Italian? Can I use my card in other countries? I’ve had a lot of fun researching this because there is no definitive answer. All my research, theoretical and practical, says that any contactless-enabled credit card (regardless of country of origin) should be accepted where ever there is a POS with the contactless symbol. No matter what, I suggest you confirm with your issuer prior to traveling. Source: UK Cards Association
What if I don’t have a Contactless-enabled card, can I pay using my phone? This is a bit of a trick question. If you do not have a contactless card, you cannot make contactless payments. However, if you have an Android phone, you could be in luck. Mastercard created Masterpass app where you register your card and use phone for contactless payments. Since I don't have an Android, I did not test out this app.