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Spending on plastic has soared in the first half of this year, demonstrating that the way UK consumers use cards is changing. Pauline McCallion reports   
The introduction of chip and pin and the general ease of use and availability of credit and debit cards may explain the huge jump in the number of people using their plastic to pay for everyday goods and services.

Recent research from the Association for Payment Clearing Services (APACS) shows that spending on plastic rose from £141.7bn in the first half of 2005 to £151bn over the same period this year. June 2006 alone saw spending on plastic amount to £26.4bn.

Debit cards dominate as a more popular method of payment, accounting for 70% of purchases made in the UK in the six months to June 2006. Debit card spending during the month of June reached £16.2bn and the amount spent on credit cards was £10.2bn. The report from APACS claimed this proved that the way Brits use their cards had changed since 2003, with debit cards now being the dominant method of payment by far.

In line with this, June saw a total of 377 million purchases on debit cards and 166 million on credit cards. Of these purchases, two thirds took place on the high street, mostly in the food, drink and household sectors.

Sandra Quinn, director of communications at APACS, says: “Our figures show that while there are certain situations when consumers prefer to use a credit card rather than a debit card, there is a continuing trend to pay more frequently by debit card. We expect this trend to continue, with debit cards being used more extensively for lower value payments that are currently made by cash.”

However, Quinn claims there is still a place for credit cards in consumers’ wallets. “Credit card spending did account for a total of over £10bn of June’s plastic card purchases – consumers do welcome the convenience and security they bring and continue to use them for bigger items and when buying online or overseas,” she concluded.

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