Card payments overtake cash for the first time amid contactless boom

Debit card payments overtook the number of those made by cash for the first time last year, a trade association has said.

Monday, 18th June 2018, 9:41 am
Updated Tuesday, 19th June 2018, 2:36 pm
Debit card payments overtook the number of those made by cash for the first time last year. Picture by Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

There were 13.2 billion debit card payments in 2017 - eclipsing the 13.1 billion payments made in cash, according to UK Finance.

The body said debit card use overtook cash for the first time as the most frequently used payment method in the UK in the final quarter of 2017.

The tipping point happened a few months earlier than it had previously forecast.

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The boom in contactless payments across the UK is a key driver of the growth of debit card use, its UK Payment Markets report said.

There were 5.6 billion contactless payments made last year on both debit and credit cards combined.

UK Finance said nearly two-thirds (63%) of people in the UK now use contactless payments.

The average adult made nine contactless payments per month in 2017 - up from five in 2016.

By 2027, the average adult is expected to make 22 contactless payments per month.

By the end of 2017 there were nearly 119 million contactless cards in circulation.

The most popular location to make contactless payments during 2017 was at the supermarket, with over a third (38%) of all contactless payments being made in these stores.

People aged between 25 and 34 were the most likely group to use contactless cards last year, with 77% of people in this age group making contactless payments during 2017.

Whilst people aged 65 or older are less likely than younger people to make contactless payments, more than half of this age group made contactless payments during 2017, the report said.

UK Finance said that last year, around 3.4 million people hardly used cash at all, instead relying on cards and other payment methods to manage their spending.

But on the other hand, many people still rely heavily on cash. Around 2.2 million people mainly used cash for their day-to-day shopping in 2017.

Cash is still the second most frequently used payment method, after debit cards.

UK Finance said that while cash use is expected to continue to fall over the next decade, it is anticipated that cash will still retain its place as the second most frequently used payment method in 2027.

Contactless cards are expected to account for over a third (36%) of all payments in 2027, up from 15% in 2017.

Stephen Jones, chief executive of UK Finance, said: "The choice of payment options available in the UK is allowing people to choose to pay the way that best suits them.

"But we're far from becoming a cash-free society and despite the UK transforming to an economy where cash is less important than it once was, it will remain a payment method that continues to be valued and preferred by many."

Commenting on the report, Adam Herson, business development director, Barclaycard Mobile Payments, said: "More recently, we have seen a surge in the use of wearable and mobile payments, creating new, exciting opportunities for both shoppers and brands.

"Consumers are increasingly able to match their payment accessory or device to their lifestyle or fashion taste."