Cheques are becoming less and less common in the UK according to research from global market research firm Mintel which claims Britons’ use of contactless cards has overtaken cheque payments for the first time.
The report claims that less than one third of people in the UK used a cheque to pay for something in the past three months – a decline from 40% in the same period a year ago.
This means they are now the least popular form of payment, coming in behind debit cards with 39% and contactless credit cards with 34%.
The report points out that while contactless technology isn’t new, payment habits don’t change overnight and use has only gained real momentum quite recently.
“The real shift in behaviour has only come over the last few years,” says Rich Sepherd, an analyst at mintel.
“It’s easy to forget that contactless cards were first launched back in 2007, meaning that the technology has been on British high streets for almost a decade. People’s payment habits change slowly, as can be seen with the cheque’s stubborn refusal to disappear from the payments landscape.”
While there is not necessarily a correlation between the decline of cheques and rise of contactless, the research points to the growing popularity of new payments methods in Europe. There are also signs that mobile payments are becoming more common, with 34% of smartphone owners in the UK saying they have made a payment on their device in the 12 months to April according to Mintel research.
“The recent growth of contactless card usage and the widespread availability of contactless terminals mean that mobile payments should face less resistance from consumers than contactless cards did. However, the fact that contactless payments took nearly a decade to become a mainstream payment method suggests that mobile services will go through a similarly extended journey to widespread use.” Rich comments.
While cheques may be declining and contactless becomes more widespread, however, UK customers are not yet convinced by the prospect of a cashless society.
According to the report, 54% of those polled said they were not comfortable with the idea of abandoning cash altogether.
Despite faster payment technologies, business-to-business payments by paper cheque show no sign of decline from three years ago.
Nordic payments processing firm Nets Holdings is planning an IPO in Copenhagen this year.
The annual volume is expected to increase tenfold - from US$50bn to US$500bn - driven by smartphone penetration.
The UK recorded an 18% jump last year, fuelled by online shopping and data breaches, with big increases also recorded in Greece, Denmark, France and Russia.