Card payments were used more than cash for the first time ever in the UK last year, while contactless transactions have skyrocketed in recent months due to COVID-19.
Card and contactless payments accounted for 51 per cent of all transactions in the UK in 2019, marking the first time digital payment methods were used more than cash, according to UK Finance.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also dramatically accelerated the use of contactless payments, accounting for a whopping 90 per cent of all ‘face to face’ transactions since April 1, according to separate data from Barclaycard.
Throughout 2019 17 billion payments were made using debit cards including 7 billion contactless transactions, with contactless debit and credit card payments jumping 16 per cent since 2018.
Conversely, cash payments fell by 15 per cent to 9.3 billion, but cash was still the second most used form of payment despite 98 per cent of the population owning debit cards.
The number of people not using cash, or using cash just once a month, more than doubled from 3.4 million in 2017 to 7.4 million in 2019.
According to UK Finance’s chief executive Stephen Jones 2019’s sharp rise in contactless payments largely prepared the UK for the changes made necessary by the pandemic.
“An increase in ways to pay coupled with the change in people’s payment habits may have inadvertently gone some way to prepare the nation for the impact of Covid-19 on their daily lives,” he said.
“With consumers already using contactless payments and remote banking more than in previous years, these technological advances have allowed many people to shop and make payments safely from home or in store.”
Barclaycard Payments chief executive Rob Cameron added: “Just as consumers are becoming more comfortable with contactless and digital payments, we’ve also witnessed this same behavioural shift with our merchant clients. Not only are they placing more emphasis on their payments systems, they’re also considering how providing a quick and easy payments process improves the overall customer experience.
“Coronavirus has only accelerated this trend, with many traditionally face-to-face businesses switching to online and distance selling for the first time in order to adapt and grow, and it will be interesting to see how card payments continue to evolve in the months ahead.”