The impact of Covid-19 on UK card payments in 2020

Today (16 June 2021) UK Finance published the latest edition of its annual publication UK Payment Markets, which analyses the trends in UK payments during 2020.

As we might expect, the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns of 2020 had a far-reaching impact on payments in the UK. With parts of the economy shut down for extended periods, and a requirement for consumers to stay at home and maintain social distancing, there were considerable changes to what we were buying and how we were paying for it.

One example of its impact can be seen by looking at card payments during 2020.

Consumers were encouraged to pay by card when shopping, and this is reflected in the fact that 59 per cent of payments made by consumers in 2020 were made by card, up from 56 per cent in 2019. However, at the same time the total number of card payments actually fell during the same period, from 20.4 billion payments in 2019 to 18.6 billion payments in 2020. This is a result of the fact that huge parts of the economy were closed down for significant parts of the year. 

At the same time, contactless payments continued to grow. Many retailers encouraged customers to pay by contactless in order to help maintain social distancing. In April 2020, the industry increased the spending limit on an individual contactless card payment from £30 to £45 in order to help with this.  Contactless payments continued to be popular with consumers, with over eight out of ten people now making payments of this type. The result of this was that contactless was used to make over one in four payments in the UK during 2020, the first time this threshold has been passed.

We can also see the impact of online shopping in our card spending data for 2020. Prior to the pandemic, an average of around 30 per cent of card spending was online. However, in April 2020 this reached as high as 45 per cent of the value of card spending as people turned to online shopping during the first lockdown. A second spike was seen in November 2020 as Christmas approached and stricter lockdown controls returned to the UK. 

More insights into how the way we pay for things changed during 2020 can be found in a free summary of the key findings from UK Payment Markets, which can be downloaded here.

Download Payment Markets 2021 (free to select members)

Download Payment Statistics 2021 (free to select members)

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