Improve 'PIN Needed' handling - ask for a PIN rather than saying 'NOT AUTHORISED'

Recently the Monzo system changed so you need to enter your PIN more often when using contactless. This is something that most banks do.

With other banks, my experience is as follows:

  1. You use your card in ‘contactless’ mode
  2. Some system somewhere determines that you need to enter your PIN
  3. The card machine says ‘INSERT CARD’ then gets you to enter your PIN, and does it as a ‘chip and pin’ transaction. [Alternatively, normally in continental Europe, the machine says ‘ENTER PIN’ without you needing to insert your card and you can finish the transaction that way].
  4. All done!

With Monzo, the experience is:

  1. Monzo decides I need to use my PIN the next time I use the card.
  2. It sends me a push notification on my phone saying “you need to use your PIN next time you use your card” (or something similar).
  3. The notification gets lost amongst all the other notifications on my phone, and/or I see it then forget.
  4. I try and use my contactless card in the normal way at a merchant (say a pub, or my work canteen)
  5. The payment comes up as REJECTED, which is super embarrassing. I’ve even had barpeople at pubs, and the checkout person at my work canteen, chase after me to tell me that my card’s been rejected, and drag me back to pay properly. It’s not fun.
  6. I’m not sure whether it’s been rejected because I’m low on funds or because of a PIN issue. I’m super embarrassed at this point and I want to get out of the way of the queue of people who are glowering at me with expressions saying ‘why doesn’t this idiot pay with a card that actually has money on it so we can get our [food/beer] and get on with our day?’ So I pay with a credit card not my Monzo card, to make sure I’m as quick as possible. And that messes up my budgeting and spend analytics.
  7. I get on with my day slightly more annoyed than I was before.

This is pretty much the only time that Monzo’s experience is worse than a traditional bank’s. But it’s getting to be quite a problem for me. I’ve actually thought about switching away from Monzo to some close competitor because of the embarrassment that’s caused by looking as though I have no money in front of colleagues.

Why can’t you get merchants to handle a PIN request in a more sensible way, like the legacy banks do? Is there a technical barrier?

All comments very welcome! :slight_smile:

afaik, that’s what Monzo do. It’s the card terminals, configured by the vendor that is at fault.


I never walk off until I’ve had confirmation that payment has been taken. I’d never tap and go.

As for the message the terminal gives, I understand that would be due to the terminal being misconfigured. The intended flow with Monzo is supposed to result in being asked to insert your card to pay by chip and PIN.


This happened to me at a barbers. He assumed the contactless payment went through and thanked me, I walked back to the car park and gave my ticket away, checked my phone to see a decline message and that I needed to use chip & pin.

The barbers even mentioned they seems to have an issue with Monzo. So something in the process/experience isn’t right. :man_shrugging:t2:

A bunch of Euro idiots came up with SCA and didn’t think how it would work in the UK where we don’t have terminals that support contactless and pin. So yeah we get the rejected without knowing the reason, and then start a new chip and pin transaction.

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I have a feeling that it’s the case the other banks have the actual card itself disallow the contactless payment, which, in the case of Monzo, would require that they re-issue all cards.

Currently, the cards are set to always allow contactless (but request authorisation). It’s when the card is authorised that Monzo decline it, for requring a PIN. I have a feeling that there isn’t a system to send a decline response of ‘PIN required’. I could be wrong though, and would love to be corrected by someone that actually knows what they’re talking about (@Rika :eyes:).

Turns out that was mostly wrong.

(I am curious as to why Contactless+PIN isn’t a think in the UK, though… that would definitely solve the issue.)

According to this it’s definitely down to the merchant:

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Also RE contactless + pin, this explains a little more why it’s not enabled.

I’d personally recommend just using Google/Apple Pay on your phone. There’s no SCA limit as you authenticate with biometrics or a pin on your phone, plus there’s no contactless transaction limit. Making payments of £1000+ using just your phone is fun :sweat_smile:

I think my current Monzo card is the longest I’ve had a card without the paint rubbing off the numbers, I literally never use the thing anymore.

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This doesn’t resolve your specific issue, but just as a side note you should never leave a till until the card machine tells you the payment is approved. There are a number of reasons it could not work (this PIN issue, insufficient funds, some kind of connectivity issue).

People walking away before a payment has completed are part of the reason why (especially early on) vendors would refuse to let people use Monzo, as people would leave without paying so they’d understandably be weary of Monzo cards.

I’ve only managed to do it once by accident, at the self service til in Tesco! I went back later and they found the payment in the system using the time from my Monzo “rejected” payment so I could pay for it! An embarrassing incident for me :grimacing: I wouldn’t say you need to be embarrassed about having a payment not work in general though, sometimes machines just don’t always work anyway so to others around you, they don’t even know if you’re at fault! Though I can completely see why it’d be frustrating if it happens regularly.


Thanks for all your responses! I guess my concerns here are that:

  1. In my experience so far, pretty much all retailer terminals tend to be misconfigured. I don’t think there’s been a time yet when a terminal has done a sensible thing and said 'please try again with chip and PIN. I don’t think this only affects a small minority of terminals.
  2. Whoever’s fault it is - it still harms the user experience. I’m nerdy enough to find payment protocols interesting but other people will say ‘this is a disadvantage of Monzo’ and walk away.
  3. Weirdly - it’s not something I get with other banks. My Nationwide Visa and Halifax Mastercard work pretty much flawlessly in prompting me to insert my card when they want my pin.
  4. In response to the suggestion that I should wait before walking off - I will always do that if I’m not sure whether I have enough money and I think the transaction might get rejected for lack of funds. But given Monzo can take 10-20 seconds to approve a transaction on slower systems, I’m not going to slow my life down by that much, every time I make a transaction, because of something that seems to me to be a fault of the Monzo system. I want to pay and immediately go eat my food/drink my beer! And I don’t want to be chased around my work canteen by angry cooks because the Monzo system (by which I mean the system including the payment network - I’m interested in the user experience/ultimate result here rather than who is at fault) has worked in an unexpected/sub-optimal way.
  5. I could use google pay… but it all depends what I have close at hand. Sometimes unlocking my phone’s just that bit harder than pressing my wallet to the card reader!

As I said - it’s the first problem with Monzo that’s made me think “this is more annoying than my old bank.” Maybe I’m the only one - but it’s annoying enough to be a problem for me. It would take a lot to make me abandon Monzo, but TBH if N26/Starling had most of Monzo’s features and had sorted this issue, I’d be pretty tempted to switch!

Btw Google pay only requires the screen to be pressed on for payments under £30 and not unlocked if that helps you.

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There are plenty of reasons outside of Monzo why something might go wrong, and reasons that have nothing to do with you.

The card terminal might be tempermental. It might rely on GPRS and lose connection, causing the transaction to fail for that reason. The staff member operating the terminal may make an error that causes the transaction to be aborted. These are all things that could go wrong - and I’ve seen go wrong - but have nothing to do with anything the customer has done, or their bank.

Long and short of it, as a customer I’m not going to walk away until I get confirmation - be it from the Monzo app or the person serving me - that the payment has completed; and when I’m on the other side, I don’t let the customer leave until I see the payment has been approved.


Or if it’s that much of a biggie, just stop using contactless and default to using chip and pin all the time.