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Debit cards to overtake cash in UK by 2021

23 May 2016  |  8807 views  |  5 cash

Debit cards are set to overtake cash as the most popular payment method in the UK by 2021, according to data compiled by Payments UK.

Cash was still the most popular payment method in 2015 accounting for roughly half (45.1%) of all payments. However it is predicted that by 2025 notes and coins will drop to being used for just over one in four (27%) payments. The tipping point for the most popular payment method will be reached in 2021 when 14.5 billion debit card payments are predicted, overtaking the forecast 13.0 billion cash payments for the first time.

Payments UK also forecasts another landmark in 2025, when credit, debit and charge cards will account for more than half of all payments made (50.2%) - driven in large part by the increasing popularity of contactless.

Focussing solely on payments made by consumers, the average UK adult made 20 card payments per month in 2015, of which around one in 10 were contactless. By 2025, card use is expected to reach 30 transactions per month, over half of which will be contactless.

Continued growth is also predicted in the Faster Payments Service as more consumers move to online and mobile payments. These payments will more than double over the next 10 years, with 1.9 billion one-off and forward-dated payments forecast to be made in 2025.

There were 13% fewer cheques written in 2015 compared to a year earlier, but this still resulted in more than 546 million cheque payments in the year, showing they are still valued as a convenient and secure method of payment.

Comments: (5)

Jeremy Light
Jeremy Light - Accenture - London | 23 May, 2016, 13:23

The trend of these figures is clear – less cash, increasing debit card and increasing use of Faster Payments, although they may be a little conservative. 

For example, there were 10bn UK debit card transactions in 2015 according to UK Cards Association stats, up from 5.8 bn in 2009, so 14.5 bn txns forecast for 2021 may be low given contactless is accelerating debit card usage.

On the other hand, the PSD2 will allow payment initiation by third parties, which would boost Faster Payment volumes at the expense of debit cards so 14.5bn may be about right, but FPS volumes would be a lot higher in 2021 than the 1.9 bn transactions forecast for 2025.

13bn cash payments forecast for 2021 is also very interesting. This would be a 7.6 bn transaction drop in UK cash usage since 2011 when there were 20.6 bn UK cash transactions (see Finextra news on 10 June 2013 reporting Payments Council cash figures), a 37% drop (bigger if you factor in several % points of population growth).

The UK may not be a cashless society, but certainly it is becoming a “less cash” one.

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Ainsley Ward
Ainsley Ward - ACWA Consulting - Diegem | 23 May, 2016, 14:02

It's funny that this is a story because apparently it already happened in 2010 - or were they wrong then?  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/8177237/Britons-use-their-debit-cards-more-than-cash.html 

The biggest issue with trying to demonstrate this trend is that there are no accurate records of cash transactions - the only number that you can use is declared cash transactions that are included for taxation purposes. It's great that card and FP volumes are increasing - I'm a huge supported of the cash-less society, but before we pat ourselves on the back as an industry, there needs to be a reality check. There are still large sectors of the community that are not terminalised, surcharging for low value transactions and little or no restriction on cash usage. Once these issues are solved, THEN we can start to talk about proper progress.

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Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune | 23 May, 2016, 18:44

I thought mobile wallets were going to kill debit and credit cards by 2007?

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James Piggot
James Piggot - Finastra - London | 24 May, 2016, 08:46

Personal experience suggests contactless is going to take over sooner, there is less friction in contactless than there is in cash. As Aisnley says above there are still some surcharges for low value payments but they are becoming a minority, mostly ice cream vans and greasy spoon cafes. There are sole traders for who even a simple solution like iZettle is overkill. There are the complications of sharing a restaurant bill amongst a group of friends. There are those who prefer to keep their spending anonymous because of fears over government snooping or because their tax affairs are murky. There are also issues over controlling impulse spending which can be alleviated with better banking apps, although the recent solution that delivers an electric shock to those in danger of over spending may be a step too far. 

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Melvin Haskins
Melvin Haskins - Haston International Limited - | 24 May, 2016, 14:09

I could not agree with Ainsley Ward more. No-one has an accurate figure for cash use, so making comparisons is pure guesswork. Whilst I accept that debit card useage is increasing - and I am greatly in favour - cash withdrawals from ATM's and cash in circulation are both on the increase. How do you explain that?

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