Christmas shopping moves online amid Covid-19 restrictions to reach record December levels

  • December 2020 saw a higher proportion of Christmas shopping done online than during any previous year, with 33.8 per cent of the value of all credit and debit card spending occurring over the internet ? amounting to more than £21.7 billion. 
  • Contactless payments remained popular for in-store transactions, reaching a total value of £12.2 billion in December - the highest level on record. 
  • In total, 1.7 billion debit and credit card transactions were made in the UK in December ? reaching a total spend of £64.4 billion, 0.7 per cent higher than the year before. 
  • The annual growth rate of outstanding balances on credit cards fell by 16.8 per cent in the year to December, the steepest fall over a twelve-month period since the pandemic began. 

Card spending data published today by UK Finance reveals more Christmas shopping was done online in December 2020 than during any previous Christmas, as continued coronavirus restrictions saw people move their festive spending online. 

Online card spending accounted for 33.8 per cent of the total value of credit and debit card spending in the UK ? worth over £21.7 billion ? compared to just 28 per cent in December 2019. The average value of online transactions stood at £80.50, compared to just under £72 the previous year ? as people made a larger number of more expensive purchases online ahead of Christmas and in the following Boxing Day sales. 

The number of contactless card payments continued to grow as people took advantage of the higher £45 limit for transactions. The total value of contactless payments in December reached their highest recorded level at £12.2 billion. This reflected  a 64.7 per cent increase compared to December 2019.  

Total card spending reached £64.4 billion in December 2020, 9.5 per cent higher than the previous month and 0.7 per cent higher than the year before. In total, 1.7 billion debit and credit card transactions were made in the UK in the month, 12.1 per cent more than in November, but 9.6 per cent fewer than in December 2019. UK Finance data also shows that outstanding balances on credit card accounts fell by 16.8 per cent in the twelve months to December. This was the fifth successive month in which repayments have outstripped borrowing, and the largest drop over a twelve-month period since the pandemic began. This can be attributed to people choosing to pay off debt or reduced usage of credit facilities. 

Eric Leenders, Managing Director of Personal Finance, UK Finance, said: 

December 2020 saw, for the time of year, a record proportion of shopping carried out online, as coronavirus restrictions forced more people to do their Christmas shopping from home than on the high street. At the same time, the value of contactless payments reached a record high in December, with customers taking advantage of the higher £45 payment limit.  

?Overall card spending in December 2020 was higher than the year before, while aggregate credit card balances continued to fall in the run up to Christmas, reflecting the increased levels of household savings for those who have been less financially affected by the pandemic.

Contact Information

UK Finance Press Office

020 7416 6750 -

Notes to editor

<p>1. For more information please call the UK Finance Press Office on 020 7416 6750 or e-mail <a href=""> </a> </p>
<p>2. UK Finance is the collective voice for the banking and finance industry. Representing more than 250 firms across the industry, we act to enhance competitiveness, support customers and facilitate innovation.</p>
<p>3. Full data tables are available <a href="…;. </p>
<p>4. The banking and finance industry has put in place a clear plan to help Britain through </p>
<ul><li>2.75 million <a href="… payment deferrals</a> </li>
<li><a href="… million interest-free overdrafts</a> offered, 1.18 million payment deferrals on credit cards and over 828,000  payment deferrals on personal loans. </li>
<li><a href="… £71 billion of lending</a> to over 1.5 million businesses through government Covid-19 lending schemes </li>
<li>Protecting customers from <a href="… and fraud</a> </li>
<li>Higher limit for <a href="… payments</a>  </li>
</ul><p>5. Please note that data on UK cardholders is different to data on card activity in the UK. Data on UK cardholders refers to transactions made either inside the UK or overseas on cards issued to UK residents and reported by card issuers. Data on card activity in the UK refers to transactions made in the UK only, both on UK-issued cards and cards issued overseas, this data is provided by acquirers.  </p>
<p>6. A summary of our annual UK Payment Markets 2020 Report containing detailed analysis of the use of all types of payments in the UK, can be found <a href="…;. </p>
<p>7. The quarterly Household Finance Review containing analysis and economic commentary on household finance in the UK, can be found <a href="…;. </p>
<p>8. The monthly credit card data has been re-stated back to January 2019 to increase our market coverage to 97 per cent providing a more representative picture of the credit card market. </p>
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