Visa Europe Sees UK Contactless Payments Growth Accelerate

Contactless card payment volumes in the UK more than tripled 2013, thanks to accelerated rollout by retailers and growing acceptance on public transport according to Visa Europe.

Despite some initial concerns around the security of near field communication (NFC) enabled cards – with some UK users complaining that they unwittingly had funds taken from their accounts – the technology is gathering pace among consumers. Figures from the payments provider show that 94.3m purchases were made using its contactless cards last year, up from 25m in 2012.

There are now 32.1m Visa contactless cards in circulation in the UK, up 125% from 2012, with the average spend totalling £6.09 (US$10.15). Visa Europe recently reported that UK contactless transactions reached a total of £460m in 2013, although this is still well behind Poland, which recorded 159m purchases over the year, while Spain saw a higher total spend of £618m.

Growing use in the UK has been driven by the roll out of NFC terminals by retailers, including Marks & Spencer and Starbucks, increasing by almost 200% to more than 300,000.

Visa contactless debit cards have also been used on 10m journeys on London buses, which have now ditched cash payments, while Transport for London plans to enable the technology to be used on the capital’s Underground system.

“Use of contactless will rise even further in the UK with the arrival of contactless payments on the London Underground later this year,” said Sandra Alzetta, executive director at Visa Europe. “We want to make smaller payments and purchases quick and convenient and UK consumers are clearly seeing that contactless can offer them just that.”

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