You are on a quick visit to the tourist shop, as you plan to buy your grandma a cute lucky-charm for Christmas. After waiting on a London-style queue, you whip out the hot coral to pay at the til.
As always with contactless, you tap and walk away.
*1 But wait! As you are happily walking out of the shop, you see a member of staff chasing you like you are in League 1 Rugby.
- “Excuse me, your payment was declined”
Embarrassment level: it’s over 9,000
These things happen and they are not always your fault. Even if you have enough money in your account and your card is not frozen…
Technically if a shop takes Mastercard, it takes Monzo. So what happened there? Sometimes there is no quick way to tell without some good old detective work ♂. But I can tell you that 9/10 times it’s because we are trying to protect your money.
Let me give you 3 real scenarios we dealt with recently.
You are one of 700 monthly customers who go abroad and shop at ArgentinianStakes. When swiping your hot coral card at the payment machine, you get an immediate decline!
*5It turns out this shop is constantly sending us swipe transactions without any of the security data they should have! That means if a hacker tried to replay that transaction or modify it in certain ways, they could get away with it! We don’t want to risk your money, so Monzo declines it. Better to lose a steak than to lose your savings!
You are one of 5,000 monthly customers of a high-street credit card provider in the UK – HighCredit – who pays for their balance using their Monzo account. You go on HighCredit’s app, enter your Monzo details, which pops up with a page saying “We want to verify your identity. Please go on the Monzo app and approve this”
*6. You go to the Monzo app, approve it, now back to HighCredit’s app… and what?? You are back to the homepage! The app logged you out and it doesn’t remember where you stopped… Monzo can’t verify your identity, so we can’t approve that transaction
You are one of 1,000 monthly customers going for a weekly shop at a UK supermarket chain, FreshFruit. You tap in with contactless, but… (guess what?) transaction declined. There are two types of contactless payments enabled in your card: one safe, one… not as safe and with no limit!
*7- They were using the unsafe type (CMS) with incorrect data, which looks shady to Monzo. Verdict:
None of these scenarios imply these shops are being evil . Sometimes they are due to mis-configuration, mis-communication, human-error, technical problems, etc…
But if we let any of these transactions through, we would be putting your money at risk.
What do we do about this? We have a team of top-notch payment experts tackling these problems every-day. That means talking to shops & Mastercard, creating additional rules from our side and making sure that, next time, your grandma will definitely get that lucky-charm.
- Please don’t tap and immediately walk away – some shops will explicitly tell you so!
- This has happened to a “friend”
- If you get this quote, drinks are on me
- Real names and exact numbers have been altered to protect the shops’ reputations
- “Payment machine”, also known as POS (Point of Sale). “Swiping” refers to “Magnetic Stripe transactions”, using that black line on your card
- Also known as an EMV 3D Secure challenge
- Massive over-simplification of EMV contactless VS Magnetic Stripe Contactless (CMS) - for more info, read https://paylosophy.com/contactless-payments-demystified/