APACS, the UK payments association, yesterday launched The Way We Pay: Bills, its report on trends in bill payments throughout the UK.
The report reveals that household bill payments are on the rise, from 159 per household in 2000 to 166 in 2005. Consumers handle these numerous commitments in a variety of ways, with direct debits particularly favoured - direct debits accounted for over half of all regular bill payments in 2005.
Online and telephone banking payments are also on the rise. Between 2000 and 2005 bill payments made this way more than trebled, rising from 36.7 million to 118.1 million. With almost 17 million people now banking online, this figure looks set to increase.
Corresponding to the growth in online, telephone and automated payments, cash and cheque payments have seen a significant decline. Regular payments made with cash have fallen by nine per cent since 2000, while the number of bill payments made by cheque has fallen 26 per cent. However, cheques remain popular as a way to make credit card repayments and for those bills where the value is not known in advance.
Sandra Quinn, director of communications at APACS says: "Our report shows that bill-payers in Britain make use of the full range of options in handling their bills. While the ease of direct debits, standing orders and telephone and internet banking have prompted people to make increasing use of these types of payment, it is clear that consumers are finding a way to pay bills which best fits their individual need or lifestyle.
"People today have more bills coming through the door than ever before, so it's no surprise that many bill-payers are finding more sophisticated payment methods that allow them to be more organised in their repayments - whether it is through online banking or by setting up a direct debit."
Age, earnings and lifestyle all influence the way Britons prefer to pay their bills, and indeed where they choose to pay them. The report reveals that, when we do make cash and cheque payments, we are most likely to make them at the Post Office; half (50 per cent) of all household bills paid in cacash are handled there. For top earners and younger people, internet banking is a popular way to pay with over half (55 per cent) of households with a combined income of over £50,000 per year and 41 per cent of all 25-34 year olds paying some bills online.