UK card payments outnumber cash for the first time

(Image credit: Transport for London)

British shoppers are finally moving towards ditching cash payments, new research has shown.

Figures from industry analysts UK Finance found that the number of debit card payments overtook cash transactions for the first time during 2017.

Overall, 13.2 billion debit card payments were made during 2017, ahead of 13.1 billion cash payments, relegating physical money to second place for the first time.

Cash or card?

Cash payments were down 15 per cent compared to the previous year, as the number dropped heavily from the 2016 total of 15 billion transactions, with 3.4 million consumers never using cash at all during 2017.

Contactless payments played a major role in helping card payments overhaul cash, with the number of transactions rising 97 per cent in 2017 to reach 5.6 billion, as the number of contactless cards rose to 119 million across the UK.

Overall, there were 38.8 billion payments made in the UK during 2017, and the expectation is for the gulf between card and cash to continue growing in the next few years.

UK Finance expects that debit card payment volumes will grow by more than any other payment method, increasing by 49 per cent to 19.7 billion payments in 2027. However cash will continue to fall over the next decade, with just 6.4 billion cash payments expected in 2027 - around 16 per cent of all payments.

“The choice of payment options available in the UK is allowing people to choose to pay the way that best suits them," said Stephen Jones, the chief executive of UK Finance. "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."

“These trends are likely to shift further over the next decade. Developments such as Open Banking are expected to bring extensive changes to the payments landscape, something that will likely shape how we interact with our money in the coming years.”

Mike Moore
Deputy Editor, TechRadar Pro

Mike Moore is Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a B2B and B2C tech journalist for nearly a decade, including at one of the UK's leading national newspapers and fellow Future title ITProPortal, and when he's not keeping track of all the latest enterprise and workplace trends, can most likely be found watching, following or taking part in some kind of sport.