Shoppers can buy goods costing up to £30 using contactless credit and debit cards from today, as the single payment limit has increased from £20 per transaction.

However, not all retailers will offer the new limit straight away, as software updates are needed for terminals in retail outlets to accept more costly transactions.

Contactless payments were first introduced in the UK in 2007 as a handy alternative to scrabbling around for cash to pay for low-value transactions. It began with a £10 transaction limit, which increased to £15 in 2010, and to £20 in 2012.

This use of "tap and go" technology has seen strong growth over the last year as it has become accepted in a rapidly expanding variety of places including supermarkets, charity shops, and even on public transport.

Now there are 58 million contactless cards in the UK and according to trade body the UK Cards Association, more contactless transactions took place during the first nine months of 2014 than the previous six years combined.

It's because of this increase that the card payments industry has increased the limit from £20 to £30.

Richard Koch, head of policy at The UK Cards Association, says: "The new £30 limit will give customers more opportunities to pay with contactless cards for their everyday purchases, such as in supermarkets, where the average spend is £25."

How does contactless work and is it safe?

Contactless cards contain a chip that holds your account information, as well as an antenna that picks up power from a signal sent out by a card reader.

This technology enables customers to pay for goods with a single swipe of their card on a reader, without the need to sign or enter a personal identification number (PIN).

Some concerns have been raised about how susceptible contactless cards are to criminals using technology in an attempt to steal card details remotely.

But the UK Cards Association has described instances of fraud on contactless cards as "extremely rare", with losses of less than a penny for every £100 spent on contactless – far lower than card fraud generally.

If a contactless card is used fraudulently, consumers are fully protected against any losses and will not be left out of pocket, the Association says. Card providers should reimburse victims of contactless fraud, as long as they have taken reasonable steps to keep their card safe.

Contactless cards payment limit rises to £30
Contactless cards payment limit rises to £30

Higher transaction limit on Apple Pay

If you use Apple Pay, a digital wallet where you can store your card details on the latest iPhone or Apple Watch to pay for goods, you can actually spend above this £30 limit. The transaction limit is up to individual stores.

The UK Cards Association says this is because these payments operate slightly differently to other contactless payments, as they must include customer verification through the use of a passcode for example, or a form of biometric, such as a fingerprint.

See our Apple Pay; should you use it? MSE News story for more information on how it works.

Additional reporting by Paloma Kubiak.