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Debit cards more popular than cash for the first time

Joanna Faith
Written By:
Joanna Faith

Debit cards have overtaken cash as the most frequently used payment method in the UK for the first time.

Consumers made 13.2 billion debit card payments in 2017 compared to 13.1 billion cash payments, according to a report by trade body, UK Finance.

It said the popularity of contactless payments was a “key driver of debit card growth”.

Almost two thirds of people now use contactless payments, and no age group or region falls below 50% usage.

Across both debit and credit cards, the number of contactless payments increased by 97% during 2017 to 5.6 billion.

Cash payments were down 15% year-on-year, with around 3.4 million people never using cash at all. However, cash is still the second most frequently used payment method.

While UK Finance expects the number of cash payments to continue to fall over the next decade, it said the UK is “far from becoming a cash-free society”.

Stephen Jones, chief executive of UK Finance, said: “The choice of payment options available in the UK is allowing people to choose to pay the way that best suits them. But we’re far from becoming a cash-free society and despite the UK transforming to an economy where cash is less important than it once was, it will remain a payment method that continues to be valued and preferred by many.”

In total, there were 38.8 billion payments made in the UK last year.

The report predicts debit card payment volumes will grow by 49% to 19.7 billion payments in 2027, driven by the continuing rise of contactless payments, the ongoing growth of online shopping and ever-increasing levels of card acceptance particularly among smaller businesses.