For British Consumers, Contactless Payments Are the Way to Go

Britain’s retail business is now conducted almost entirely via contactless payments, according to data from Barclays. A record 93.4% of all in-store card transactions of up to £100 were made using touch and pay methods in 2023.

The survey revealed significant growth among individuals 65 and older, signaling a diminishing age gap in contactless payment usage. Even among the elderly ages 85 to 95, contactless payments usage reached 80% for the first time. Overall, there were 7.8% more touchless transactions in the UK in 2023 compared to the previous year.

The average individual user made 231 contactless transactions in 2023, up from 220 the year before. They also bought more expensive items. As a result, total consumers spending via contactless payments rose 8.9% to £3,623 for the year.

Younger People Leave the Wallet at Home

Despite the narrowing age gap, there is one way in which younger consumers have differentiated themselves: mobile payments. More individuals ages 18 to 34 are choosing to pay without cards altogether and simply use their phone. Although 22% of shoppers in that age group don’t even bring a wallet when they go shopping, just 1% of those over 75 said the same.  Additionally, 15% of those ages 18 to 34 expressed a preference for paying at a restaurant by scanning a QR code, which eliminates the need to wait for the bill at the end of a meal.

However, when it comes to big-ticket items, a different trend emerges. In the UK, a £100 limit applies to purchases made with physical cards. For transactions exceeding £100, traditional payment options are still preferred. Chip and PIN cards, characterized by an embedded EMV chip, remain popular, but nearly one in four, or 23% of respondents, still prefer cash for these purchases. Mobile wallets rank third in popularity for big-ticket purchases at 19%.

These findings reinforce the idea that the UK has seen a preference for contactless payments over cash for some time now. According to a 2023 survey from takepayments, nearly half of respondents (48%) said they preferred contactless card payments—more so than cash (17%) and chip and PIN transactions (11%).

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