With mobile banking and contactless payments becoming ever more popular in the UK, one in 10 Brits now live a largely cashless life, according to figures from UK Finance.
Meanwhile, by the end of 2018 an estimated 8.5 million people were registered to buy goods and services using mobile payment services such as Google Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. This means that one in six of the adult population are now signed up, up from just two per cent in 2016.
Having overtaken cash in 2017, debit cards remained the most frequently used payment method in 2018, accounting for nearly 40% of all payments. Almost the entire adult UK population now own a debit card and by 2024 debit cards are forecast to account for half of all payments in the country.
The success of debit cards is being partly driven by the growing popularity of contactless, which rose to 7.4 billion payments in 2018, an increase of 31% on the previous year. More than two thirds of adults now use contactless, with popularity high across the age spectrum – 61% of over-65s now tap to pay.
Cash remains the second most frequently used payment method in the UK. It was used for 28% of payments in 2018 and is forecast to still be used for one in ten payments in a decade’s time.
However, the growth in contactless and mobile payments has meant consumers are choosing to pay less with cash, with overall cash payments falling by 16% in 2018 and one in ten adults (5.4 million consumers) opting not to use cash at all.
Despite this, UK Finance stresses that many still value cash. Last month, with concern growing about the ongoing removal of bank branches and ATMs from Britain’s high streets, the government set up a Joint Authorities Cash Strategy Group’ to ensure continued access to notes and coins as the country drifts towards a digital economy.
UK Finance insists it is working with the group to “help ensure cash continues to be available to those who need it”.
Stephen Jones, chief executive, UK Finance, says: “The same pick ‘n’ mix approach people now take when it comes to music, television or the news is expanding into payments, as consumers take advantage of new technologies to pay in a way that suits them.
“More and more customers are now opting for the speed and convenience of paying with their contactless cards, or using mobile banking to check their balances and make transfers while on the move. This rapid rate of technological change is set to continue over the coming decade, as people embrace the ever-widening number of ways to pay and manage their finances, depending on their needs and lifestyle.
“However, technology is not for everyone and cash remains a payment method that is valued and preferred by many, so maintaining access to cash will be vital to ensure no customer is left behind.
“We are working with the Joint Authorities Cash Strategy Group and wider stakeholders, to ensure all customers have a choice in how they pay for goods and services in future.”