Cards used for over half of all payments for first time in 2019

Card and contactless payments continued to increase in 2019, with card payments accounting for over half (51%) of all payments for the first time, according to the latest UK Payment Markets report from UK Finance.

The banking body revealed that debit cards were the most used payment method in the UK with 17 billion payments, of which seven billion were contactless.

Consumer use of credit cards also rose during 2019, up by 7% to 3.3 billion payments, which UK Finance said was driven partly by the increase in contactless credit cards issued last year – with 1.3 billion credit card payments made via contactless in 2019.

The report also showed that the number of contactless payments across debit and credit cards increased by 16% to 8.6 billion. UK Finance suggested the continued move by consumers towards these payment methods may have helped prepare customers for the changes they now face due to the coronavirus lockdown.

UK Finance CEO, Stephen Jones, said: “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.

“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.

“The impact of COVID-19 may accelerate these habits for many customers; however, we are fully aware that not all customers are digitally-enabled which is why we are working flat out to ensure people have access to cash and everyday banking services remain available to help the country through these difficult times.”

Cash payments continued to decline in 2019, falling by 15% to 9.3 billion payments, although the report showed that cash was still the second most popular payment method in the UK after debit card.

UK Finance suggested changing retail trends, including the increasing use of online shopping and the increase in card acceptance by retailers, have been a factor in both the declining use of cash and increasing use of card payments.

Chair of the Access to Cash Review, Natalie Ceeney CBE, said: “In 2019 we saw a further decline in cash use of 15% – although the fact that over nine billion payments were made in cash in 2019 shows how many people still depend on it.

“This UK Finance data was taken before the impact of COVID-19, which has accelerated the shift to digital payments and further challenged the viability of the cash infrastructure. It’s essential that we ensure that everyone is included in our economy, and until digital payments work for everyone, we need to maintain people’s ability to access and pay with cash.”

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