In this paper, a new computational strategy for two-dimensional contact problems is developed with the aid of variable-node finite elements within the range of infinitesimal deformations. The variable-node elements, which are among MLS (moving least square)-based finite elements, enable us to transform node-to-surface contact problems into node-to-node contact problerns. This contact formulation with variable-node elements leads to an accurate and effective solution procedure, needless to mention that the contact patch test is passed without any additional treatment. Through several numerical examples, we demonstrate its simplicity and the effectiveness of the proposed scheme. Copyright (c) 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.