Contactless now accounts for more than a quarter of all UK payments

UK Finance today releases its 2021 Payment Markets Report, an analysis of all forms of payments over 2020 showing the impact the Covid-19 pandemic and resultant lockdowns had on the nation's payments behaviour.

For the first time in six years, the total number of payments in the UK declined, falling by 11 per cent to 35.6 billion.

While consumers continued to make the vast majority of all payments (86 per cent) the report demonstrates the reduced opportunities for people to spend money during the pandemic, with the number of consumer payments falling by 13 per cent to 30.7 billion. Meanwhile, the number of payments made by commercial organisations, government and not-for-profit organisations increased slightly to 4.8 billion, representing 14 per cent of payment volumes but 80 per cent of the total value of payments.

The report details some notable changes in the type of payments people made use of, with significant growth in contactless payments, mobile payments and internet banking, alongside a continued reduction in cash usage.

Contactless payments

During 2020 the number of contactless payments made in the UK increased by 12 per cent to 9.6 billion payments. Overall, contactless payments accounted for more than a quarter (27 per cent) of all UK payments. In the last four years contactless payments have jumped from being just seven per cent of all payments to 27 per cent.

83 per cent of people in the UK now use contactless, with no age group or region falling below 75 per cent usage. Supermarkets were the most popular place to use contactless payments in 2020, accounting for 41 per cent of contactless payments. This reflects the fact that supermarkets remained open during the lockdown periods in 2020, while many other types of retail and hospitality needed to close. The increase was also caused by consumers being encouraged to reduce contact by using cards, and contactless payments in particular, during lockdown.

The upper limit on the value of an individual contactless payment was also increased from £30 to £45 in April 2020, enabling consumers to make a greater proportion of card payments this way. This measure was implemented ahead of schedule by the industry in order to help consumers and businesses during lockdown.

There are now 135 million contactless cards in circulation, covering 88 per cent of debit cards and 81 per cent of credit cards.

Mobile and Faster Payments

The report highlights strong growth in the use of mobile phones and smart watches to make payments. Nearly a third (32 per cent, 17.3 million people) of the adult population were registered to use mobile payments by the end of 2020, an increase of 7.4 million people compared to 2019.

Whereas contactless payments are widely used across different age groups, there is a notable difference in the current take-up of mobile payments. In 2020 just over 50 per cent of 16 to 34 year olds were registered for mobile payments compared to 11 per cent of over 65s.

With more people working from home there was a notable increase in remote banking, as well over two-thirds of UK adults (72 per cent) used online banking and over half (54 per cent) used mobile banking, with these services providing a convenient way for people to continue to manage their finances during periods of lockdown.

There was also a notable increase in business use and in 2020 54 per cent of all business-to-business payments were made via Faster Payments or other remote banking.

Cash usage

2020 saw the number of cash payments made in the UK fall by 35 per cent, meaning that cash was used for 17 per cent all payments in the UK. Cash remains the second most frequently used payment method behind debit cards.

During 2020 there were 13.7 million consumers who used cash only once a month or not at all, a significant increase from 7.4 million consumers the previous year. Whilst some of this can be attributed to changing payment preferences, it also reflects the fact that during lockdown, people had fewer opportunities to go shopping and were being encouraged by many shops to pay by card or contactless instead of cash. Despite this, there remained 1.2 million consumers who mainly used cash for their day-to-day spending during 2020, highlighting the importance of the recently announced commitments made by UK Finance and the banking industry in relation to supporting access to cash.

David Postings, Chief Executive of UK Finance, said:

The pandemic resulted in some marked changes in payments behaviour and while it's too early to say whether they are permanent changes, we did see an acceleration in some existing trends such as the reduction in cash usage and the growth in contactless and mobile payments. 

?The increase in the contactless limit to £45 coupled with retailers encouraging its use meant that more than a quarter of all payments in 2020 were made via contactless. The use of cash fell, reflecting the fact that large parts of the economy were closed during the year, although it still remained the second most popular payment method behind debit cards. There remains real diversity in the way in which people choose to conduct their day-to-day spending and the banking and finance industry is committed to helping customers make payments in a variety of different ways.

The summary can be seen here.

Notes to editor

<p class="BodyTextNew" style="text-align:justify"><span style="font-size:11pt"><span style="line-height:115%"><span style="font-family:Arial,sans-serif">For more information please call the UK Finance press office on 020 7416 6750 or email <a href="; style="color:#0000e1; text-decoration:underline"><span style="border:none windowtext 1.0pt; padding:0cm"></span></a>  </span></span></span></p>
<p class="BodyTextNew" style="text-align:justify"><span style="font-size:11pt"><span style="line-height:115%"><span style="font-family:Arial,sans-serif">UK Finance is the collective voice for the banking and finance industry. </span></span></span><span style="font-size:11pt"><span style="line-height:115%"><span style="font-family:Arial,sans-serif">Representing almost 300 firms across the industry, we act to enhance competitiveness, support customers and facilitate innovation. </span></span></span></p>
<p class="BodyTextNew" style="text-align:justify"><span style="font-size:11pt"><span style="line-height:115%"><span style="font-family:Arial,sans-serif"><span style="color:black">UK Finance?s annual Payment Markets R</span>eport is an analysis of all forms of payments over 2020 and uses industry data to identify the most recent trends affecting cash, cards, cheques and electronic payments in the UK. </span></span></span></p>
<p class="BodyTextNew" style="text-align:justify"><span style="font-size:11.0pt"><span style="line-height:107%"><span style="font-family:"Arial",sans-serif">The report draws on a variety of data sources including UK Finance members, UK payment clearing schemes, LINK, and other published data and projections.</span></span></span></p>