UK contactless spending accelerates in 2015

Financial professionals can cut costs by centralising payments

British consumers spent a total of £7.75bn using contactless cards in 2015, reports the UK Cards Association, trade body for the UK card payments industry.

UK spending increased by 233% from 2014’s figure, and was equal to more than double the preceding seven years combined.

The number of purchases made via contactless spending showed a similar increase in 2015, up 228% year-on-year (YoY) to pass the one billion level at 1.05bn.

Christmas shopping made December 2015 a record month, with a total of £1.2bn spent in more than 140m contactless transactions. Around half of UK debit and credit cards are now contactless, with a total of 79.3m cards featuring the technology.

The increases were helped by the rise last September from £20 to £30 in the amount that can be spent without using chip and personal identification number (PIN) and growing awareness of the technology by consumers. However, many UK consumers still use contactless payments only for small purchases. Despite rising by 54p in December, the average transaction was only £8.57 – still below the original £10 maximum limit that first applied when the UK introduced contactless payments in 2007.

“The swift increase in contactless usage continued apace last year, with nearly one in eight card transactions now using the technology,” said Graham Peacock, chief executive (CEO) of The UK Cards Association. “Whether it’s to stock up in the supermarket, travel to work, or buy your lunch, contactless is a fast, easy and secure way to make payments.

The Association also reported that a total of £622bn was spent in the UK via credit and debit cards in 2015 via 13.4bn transactions, up from 12bn transactions totalling £574bn in 2014.

Despite the sharp uptakes in contactless payments, payments processing firm WorldPay claims that more British retailers need to start accepting them. The company’s own data shows that contactless payments in the UK rose by 160% in 2015.

The ability to pay using a contactless card or device, WorldPay says, has now become an expectation for customers in a retail world “where speed and convenience can be a deciding factor.”

“The UK has been a trailblazer for contactless adoption, and we’re seeing that play out today as the technology plants itself firmly in the mainstream,” said Dave Hobday, UK Managing Director of WorldPay. “Raising the limit on contactless to £30 opened the floodgates by broadening the opportunities for consumers to use the technology, but it’s far from the end of the story.

“Contactless has moved from novelty to normal in little more than four years. Retailers still on the side-lines without a strategy to accommodate this technology could be left in the dust and risk of driving loyal customers away.”

WorldPay reports that growth has been particularly strong growth in pubs, bars and restaurants, which now account for 48% of all UK contactless transactions, followed by entertainment venues including cinemas and theatres (31%).

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