Introduction: Disabling Contactless Payment on Debit Cards

Picture of Disabling Contactless Payment on Debit Cards

Contactless payment is a relatively new feature in debit cards that allows you to make payments for small purchases quickly and wirelessly over a short distance without having to enter your pin.

When my old debit card expired and a new one was sent, it came with this new feature. I wanted a way to disable it since each time I was scanning my RFID access card in my wallet, the detectors at work were picking up the debit card too. They'd beep twice and sometimes get confused. Not only this, but while my bank promises it's secure, I'd rather not have a feature I don't intend to use on the off-chance that it's not.

Existing articles I found when looking for a way to disable it guess at the location or infer it by cutting apart other contactless bank cards. Since I have access to a micro-CT scanner at the University of Huddersfield Centre for Precision Technologies, I thought I'd put my card in the machine, take a 2d xray still and allow myself to find the quickest and easiest way to disable it.

The above image is a a screen grab from the Xray preview of a Nikon micro-CT scanner. The low resolution is due to it being a live view image. When in operation the micro-CT scanner is capable of a resolution of several microns.

Step 1: How Contactless Payment Works

Contactless payment works using RFID technology. A chip inside the card is powered when the card comes into close proximity to an RFID card reader. The signal emitted from the reader powers the chip though use of the embedded antenna. If this antenna is cut there will be no power to the chip and so when the card is held close to a reader the debit card won't reply.

By making cuts in the card where we know the antenna is, we can disable the wireless payment features.

Step 2: How to Disable It on Your Card

Picture of How to Disable It on Your Card

Make a cut 5 mm deep anywhere around the debit card or snip off a corner. This will break the antenna path and stop power to the chip when held near a reader.

That's it. Easy!


WhoM4 (author)2017-07-26

I cannot use the LED shine through as the card in black plastic! So I am hoping that taking Jayefuu's advice I could still make a 5mm cut on the bottom edge near the corner and that will kill the antenna? Can anyone confirm this for me please? Thanks

WhoM4 (author)2017-07-26

Hi Folks,

As my 'contactless' card is black the high intensity LED light will not shine through to show me where the antenna wires are, so as the wire will no doubt be around the outer edge of the card, could I with a large degree of certainty make the 5mm cut suggested by Jayefuu and stop it operating?

A conversation with the card provider today has made it clear that they and mastercard will not be offering a choice of non contacless or contactless cards in the near future.

While with Visa and your respective bank you do have this option and so can remain just chip and pin.

PaulK280 made it! (author)2017-07-21

Using the LED on a mobile phone will help you locate the antenna wires just shine it THRU the card. A paper punch makes a nice need hole.

martinwb made it! (author)2017-02-20

Hi, just done my cards after my sister in law was scammed last week while shopping. Used high intensity LED torch to confirm antenna, 1.5mm drill and made sure I missed the magnetic stripe and signature strip. Tested at a till and chip & pin fine but no contactless!!

PanagiotisK24 (author)martinwb2017-04-14

Hi can you describe furtherly what you did after you located the antenna with your led torch? I mean you just used a screw to make that hole in order to break the circuit of the antenna? How deep was it?

John Vaines made it! (author)2017-01-06

if you don't want to mess with your card, you can make a foil screen by sticking baco foil to a piece of card or if you can get access to adhesive backed copper strip. I used a business card which is also useful these days as if any one needs your details they can just use the camera on their smart phone, save keeping tons of cards etc. :)

DawnC3 made it! (author)2016-08-19

perfect instructable, job complete tested, did not work on contactless, worked in cash point. Thank you Dawn

marcwilson (author)2015-03-06

I like the idea of a button on the card. Until then, I just keep mine in an aluminium wallet. :)

KathleenR21 (author)marcwilson2016-04-21

I kept mine in an aluminum wallet, but it got hacked when I had to take it out of the wallet to make a purchase. I don't think there was anyone behind me in line but I had to hand it to the cashier and she had it behind the register where I couldn't see. Later that afternoon the fraud charges started coming in.

DavidJ198 (author)2016-04-04

I hate this damn chip !! Some stores require the chip being used if the card has one. And the card stays in the machine, I am disabled, and have a bad memory... Gonna cut the chip out !!!

MikeP158 (author)DavidJ1982016-04-15

Uh the magstripe on your card will tell the reader you still have a chip so good luck with that!

DaleD16 (author)2016-02-17

Honestly what is the point in disabling it? In the unlikely event that you're scammed the bank will refund the loss anyway. I think what people should be worrying about is the fact that the currency (GBP, USD EURO, all of them) is backed by nothing and is debt based. All credit is loaned into existence, savings are multiplied 10's and 100's of times over with a magic trick called fractional reserve lending (Google it I'm not making this up).

MODDEDbyBACTERIA (author)2015-12-24

Did some Googling, appears that different cards have their antennas in different places on the card, also the above only works for cards with magnetic stripe apparently not a dummy strip printed in its place as the antenna is apparently integral to the chip. Those two things I read anyway, care to comment on the accuracy please of the two comments? Also read if you have more than one contactless card in your wallet that places like the London Tube, etc will remove funds from all of your contactless cards at the same time - true?

Best to get RFID blocking wallet I guess.

bobsmith652 made it! (author)2015-07-22

If you catch it right in the light, you can see the antenna path, as shown with the purple arrow. Here I used a 2mm drill bit for a neater finish. It also has no risk of jamming up in an ATM.

mikesmithfl (author)2015-07-14

I found that if I crushed the area with the chip in vice-grips, I could bend the card slightly and remove the chip from the front of the card. It left a vacant spot with the color of the back layer coming through. It looks better that way! :)

mikesmithfl (author)2015-07-14

I found that if I crushed the area with the chip in vice-grips, I could bend the card slightly and remove the chip from the front of the card. It left a vacant spot with the color of the back layer coming through. It looks better that way! :)

leo00 (author)2015-07-01

Thanks for the info.

I just received my new company card and it has this amazing feature.

The issuing bank says I can't opt out.

I relied on the shape of the chip to be reasonably sure that the card was the same of your x-rayed picture, and made a horizontal cut just between the magnetic strip and the signature field.

Luckily with one cut I broke the coil in 4 points.

My cut is about 1 cm long, however I've seen that the 4 wires are within 6 mm from the right edge, so a shorter cut would have done the trick.

I used a simple pair of scissors in order to get a neat cut. Actually, you have to closely look at the card to see the cut.

I'm not sure if the wires' ends on the two sides of the cut can still contact in some way, I'll check as soon as I can, and if yes I think I'll try to "micro-dig" in the card in order to rip off the wires and prevent them from still making contact.

I really hope that the bank acts as described in a comment, considers the card as damaged and and starts sending me boxes of replacements :) sooner or later they will ask why, and I'll be more than happy to say that I opted out on my own.

Zeugma-fr (author)2014-09-14

There is an other method, which is non-destructive.

You just have to add a small square (1cm x 1cm) of self-adhesive copper sticker on the back of the card.

Depending on where you put this copper, you will have 2 possibilities.

If you put it somewhere on the zone where the 3 spires are visible in your pic, you will scramble the RFID communication => no more communication.

If you put it in the big white zone, outside the 3 spires of the top, but inside the big spire, without covering it, you will change the antenna tuning, meaning the card will need to be closer (it need more power) to the reader to work.

Zeugma-fr (author)Zeugma-fr2014-09-14

adhesive copper tape : for example this :

tofugami (author)2014-08-21

Interesting solution to a technology driven problem. Were you able to confirm card is still usable?

Jayefuu (author)tofugami2014-08-21

It does!

Gilius (author)Jayefuu2014-08-23

Does the chip still work? I live in europe and the chip is critical because all the retailers use it.

badideasrus (author)Gilius2014-09-06

no. that's the point, basicaly. most cards chiped like this still have a magnetic strip in them (that i've seen)

people who disable the chip in this manner are doing it because they dont want their card to emit RFID. which basicaly means turning the chip off permanently.

Gilius (author)badideasrus2014-09-07

No that is not the point. The smart card chip is different from the contactless payment feature. The smart chips have been in use for a decade in europe and nobody uses the magstrip anymore so if this solution disables the smartchip along with the contactless payment antenna then it renders the card useless in europe.

You are confusing the smart chip with the contactless payment system.

Zeugma-fr (author)Gilius2014-09-14

Hi Gilius,

This method does not disable the chip for contact uses (i.e. card in reader slot or in ATM). So you are safe to do it (small cut in the bottom of the card is the best way). But for some cards, this method activate a flag that basically said "card damaged": if it is the case, your bank automatically cancels it and send you a new card.

mslobogean (author)2014-08-21

Another way to get a clean picture of the traces inside of the card is to photograph it in darkness while it is backlit with a powerful light. I used my DSLR camera with the flash off-camera and behind the card instead. Around the card you need to make a sort of mask to prevent all light except what shines directly through.

Unfortunately this didn't work for me. Cutting the traces also disabled the chip, making the card useless for most purchases and in bank machines. I will need to try this again another time. Maybe there are multiple circuits and cutting them all is what killed it.

By the way, if you want to try this a hole punch works great and leaves the edges of the card smooth.

thormj (author)mslobogean2014-08-25

I guess I gotta be more careful with hole punches.

I've been using them for years to identify the cards (2 holes = joint account, 1 hole = sole account, etc). So far, in America we don't use the chip-n-pin system, but its coming...

Jayefuu (author)mslobogean2014-08-21

Damn! Wish I'd thought of hole punch! Mind if I add that to the last step?

mslobogean (author)Jayefuu2014-08-21

Yes, of course! This is a community after all :)

pben (author)2014-08-23

I think it would be so easy to put a momentary contact switch into the antenna so that the card would be inactive until you presses on one spot on the card. This is a lazy design that leaks data to anybody with a reader that can get near your wallet. The user should have to make an active measure like pushing a button to let his data go.

domints (author)pben2014-08-23

Ummm, it won't work like this, because antenna works designed as is, and every change makes it working worse, and putting pushbutton would make antenna act as unusable piece of wire, even, when it's contacts will be connected.

Bebioeb (author)domints2014-08-23

I think what he meant was that it is a general flaw with the design of these cards, and in that case it would be easy to implement a RF switch which could disable the Antenna.

pben (author)domints2014-08-23

What I meant to say all of these card should have a manual button on them. It is just stupid to have the data available to anybody who could just get close enough with a reader.

rimar2000 (author)2014-08-21

Thanks for sharing, this is very interesting.

Jan_Henrik (author)2014-08-21

Thats awesome!!!

kbc2 (author)2014-08-21

interesting read! Thanks. not only the card readers but also the scammers who have devices to read and steal info from your card as well.

About This Instructable




More by Jayefuu:Beech Tray for Salt & Pepper MillOmas Grünes Tomaten ChutneyDisabling Contactless Payment on Debit Cards
Add instructable to: