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Debit card payments overtook cash payments for first time in 2017

PUBLISHED: 09:01 18 June 2018 | UPDATED: 16:38 18 June 2018

More payments were made by debit card than cash in the last three months of 2017, UK Finance said. Picture: YakobchukOlena/Getty Images/iStockphoto

More payments were made by debit card than cash in the last three months of 2017, UK Finance said. Picture: YakobchukOlena/Getty Images/iStockphoto

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The number of payments made by debit card overtook those made by cash for the first time last year, according to a trade association.

Happy woman paying for cafe by credit cardHappy woman paying for cafe by credit card

There were 13.2 billion debit card payments in 2017, outstripping the 13.1 billion payments made in cash, UK Finance said.

The body said the tipping point came in the final quarter of the year, a few months earlier than previously forecast, when debit card use overtook cash for the first time as the most frequently used payment method in the UK.

The boom in contactless payments across the UK is a key driver of the growth of debit card use, its UK Payment Markets report said.

There were 5.6 billion contactless payments made last year on both debit and credit cards combined.

UK Finance said nearly two-thirds (63%) of people in the UK now use contactless payments, with the average adult making nine contactless payments per month in 2017 – up from five in 2016.

By the end of 2017 there were nearly 119 million contactless cards in circulation.

The most popular location to make contactless payments during 2017 was at the supermarket, with over a third (38%) of all contactless payments being made in these stores.

UK Finance said that last year, around 3.4 million people hardly used cash at all, instead relying on cards and other payment methods to manage their spending.

But on the other hand, many people still rely heavily on cash. It is still the second most frequently used payment method, with around 2.2 million people mainly using cash for their day-to-day shopping in 2017.

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.”

What do the public think?

Our reporter Amy Newbery took to the streets of Norwich to find out people’s preferred payment methods.

UEA student Lydia Bestford, 21, from Lowestoft, said: “Using card is easier and quicker than using cash. I have contactless; it’s only risky if someone nicks your card.”

Retired grandmother Cosefa Towers from Long Stratton said: “I use card and cash, cash for small payments. I don’t have contactless.”

Business owner Mohammad Tiwana, 45, from Pakistan said: “I use cash because of old habits. It’s probably a generational thing – older people prefer to use cash while younger people use card.”

Aviva employee Andrejs Germanis, 24, from Wymondham said: “I use card because it’s easier than carrying cash. I have contactless which I mostly use for food shopping although it’s easy to lose track of what you’ve bought with contactless.”

Sixth form student Briony Greathead, 16, said: “I prefer carrying cash because many of the small markets in Norwich don’t take card payments. I don’t have contactless.”

Retiree Steve Howes said: “I use cash for small payments up to £20 then use card for anything larger than that. Contactless cards can be risky; my wife previously lost her card but luckily it wasn’t used.”

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