Contactless card use in the UK has overtaken cheques for the first time, according to new figures from research analyst Mintel.
Mintel research reveals that cheques have been used by less than one third (31%) of Brits in the past three months, down from 40% who used them to make a payment in 2015. As a result, cheques are now the least likely method Brits choose to part with their cash, behind contactless debit cards (39%) and contactless credit cards (34%).
The figures chime with recent data from the UK Cards Association which shows a surge in spending on contactless cards in the first half of 2016, with 1.1 billion contactless transactions recorded in the past six months, compared to 1.05 billion for the whole of 2015.
Rich Shepherd, financial services analyst at Mintel, says: “The real shift in behaviour has only come over the last few years. It’s easy to forget that contactless cards were first launched back in 2007, meaning that the technology has been on British high streets for almost a decade. People’s payment habits change slowly, as can be seen with the cheque’s stubborn refusal to disappear from the payments landscape.”
While the decline in use of cheques is an ongoing trend, Mintel may be comparing apples and pears in counterpointing the data with contactless adoption points out Anthony Duffy, director of retail banking in UK & Ireland at Fujitsu.
"Contactless cards and cheques serve very different markets and consumer needs," he states. "Contactless transactions are relatively new, are limited to £30, and prioritise payment convenience for both buyer and retailer, appealing to those who are comfortable with using plastic cards. Cheques, on the other hand, are hundreds of years old, do not have a value cap and require high levels of processing. They appeal to people who have more traditional payment preferences. As such, contactless payments and cheques should be viewed as complementary, rather than competitive, payment options.”
More telling is the implications of contactless card growth for newer forms of mobile and wearable payments.
As with the slow encroach of contactless, mobile payments appear to have a long way to go before they become ubiquitous, believess Mintel. Concerns about security, data access and battery life are trumped by the 51% of smartphone owner who think it’s more convenient to pay for purchases using other payment methods rather than a smartphone.
“The recent growth of contactless card usage and the widespread availability of contactless terminals mean that mobile payments should face less resistance from consumers than contactless cards did," says Shepherd. "However, the fact that contactless payments took nearly a decade to become a mainstream payment method suggests that mobile services will go through a similarly extended journey to widespread use.
"Our research suggests that promoting the convenience of mobile payments isn’t enough and that consumers are more likely to respond to incentives in the form of rewards. Additionally, transforming mobile payment services into more than just point-of-sale transaction methods is another opportunity to increase their appeal and usage.”