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UK debit cards overtake cash for first time

Staff Writer |
The popularity of contactless payments was leading to debit cards overtaking cash as the most frequently used payment method in the UK, according to the latest research from UK Finance.

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The latest UK Payment Markets report shows how new technology, payment innovation and changing consumer habits contributed to 13.2 billion card payments at the end of 2017 overtaking cash payments (13.1 billion) for the first time.

This beats previous forecasts by one year when debit cards would overtake cash within one year. In comparison, cash payments were down 15 percent year-on-year.

The popularity of contactless payments among UK consumers is a key driver of debit card growth.

In total, across both debit and credit cards, the number of contactless payments increased by 97 percent during 2017 to 5.6 billion.

Almost two thirds (63 percent) of people in the UK now use contactless payments, and no age group or region falls below 50 percent usage.

An increasing acceptance of card payments by smaller businesses and people becoming ever-more comfortable and familiar with the speed, ease and security of making low-value payments has also made the use of debit cards more popular.

By the end of 2017 there were nearly 119 million contactless cards in circulation and, with customers and businesses increasingly choosing to use contactless cards and card acceptance devices, it is anticipated 36 percent of all payments across the UK will be contactless in 2027.

As consumers increasingly turn to contactless payments in situations where previously they may have paid using cash, 2017 saw a decrease in cash payments by 15 percent to 13.1 billion payments.

Around 3.4 million consumers almost never used cash at all, instead relying on cards and other payment methods to manage their spending.

Yet despite this fall, cash is still the second most frequently used payment method, just behind debit cards, accounting for just over one-third (34 percent) of all payments in 2017.

Around 2.2 million customers mainly used cash for their day-to-day shopping in 2017, although nine out of ten of them had a debit card they could use if they chose, and the majority used other payment methods to pay their regular bills.


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