A retail crime expert has warned shoppers of a spike in bag snatchers in the run-up to Christmas as contactless spending limits soared to £100 yesterday.

Customers can now spend more than double what they could previously without entering their four-digit pin after an increase in their popularity saw the maximum spend rise from £45.

But the move - aimed at making purchases more convenient - has sparked fears around an increased risk of crime.

Maxine Fraser, managing director of Retailers Against Crime Scotland, said she was “surprised” at the steep increase and warned consumers to be extra vigilant and speak to their banks about what protections they could be offered.

Maxine Fraser, managing director of Retailers Against Crime

She said: “I understood when they raised the amount previously due to Covid-19. But I was surprised to hear of the contactless limit being increased to £100.

“It may well encourage more bag and wallet thefts and we would warn the general public to be aware of that and make sure they’re looking after their personal belongings.

“It’s coming up to the festive season so take care when you’re out.

“Make sure your bag is zipped and your wallet isn’t in your back pocket where it’s easily accessible.

“We’re all going to have to be a bit more mindful and make sure we’re looking after our personal property.”

Contactless transactions accounted for 60%, or 6.6 billion payments, of card transactions in the UK between January and July, according to trade association UK finance.

Friday’s maximum spend rise is the fifth time the limit has gone up after it was initially set at £10 in 2007.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said the rules have been changed to help the industry continue “to respond to the changing ways in which people prefer to pay”.

But Age UK has also warned that raising the limit could increase the potential for fraud, putting some older people off using bank cards to pay for goods and services.

Contactless payments are growing in popularity

Individual banks are already offering customers options on how to override the rise and money expert Martin Lewis said there should be an instant fix for custimers to set limits through online banking and apps from the moment the rise came in yesterday.

Maxine Fraser added: “It may well be what the public want in some aspects but even if they are used to spending a bit more this will make it a lot easier for higher value theft to occur.

“Card fraud is a lot more difficult in general nowadays, but with contactless it makes it so much easier. £100 isn’t really petty theft - it’s quite a lot.

“We will be issuing guidance and are always campaigning to the wider community to make sure they’re looking after their personal property.

“We don’t all have to use contactless. I would definitely advise people to seek advice from their banks and see what kind of safeguards there are if you’re concerned.”

Despite fears of an imminent increase in crime, Ewan MacDonald-Russell, Scottish Retail Consortium Head of Policy, said the change to the limit could actually take months to roll out.

He said: “While the UK contactless limit rose to £100 on Friday, it may take days, weeks, or even months for some retailers to make the necessary changes in their systems so that the new limit can take effect.

“Furthermore, some retailers may choose not to adopt the new contactless limit. As a result, customers will need to take care when making payments to check what the maximum contactless limit is for individual stores.”

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