A decade of contactless payments

By Richard Koch, Head of Cards • UK Finance

September 25, 2017

This month marks a decade since contactless cards were launched in the UK.

Over the past 10 years, the way we pay has totally changed. For many of us making low-value purchases such as a coffee or lunch, it is our contactless cards we reach for, rather than cash.

When launched in 2007, contactless was limited to a handful of London postcodes. Now, 10 years later, it can be used to pay for transactions of up to £30 at retailers across the country.

Contactless cards can also be used to pay for travel on Transport for London’s network, on some other buses and trains across the country, and to give to charity.

Certain smartphones and watches can also be used to make contactless payments, alongside a range of other gadgets.

As a result of so many opportunities for use, contactless spending has soared. In the first half of 2017, the amount spent using contactless was £23.23 billion, compared to £25 billion spent on contactless in the whole of 2016.

A report published by UK Finance earlier this month explores the growing popularity of contactless over the past decade. It charts the rise of contactless, from being a limited product only available from one card issuer in a handful of London postcodes to being available today on the majority of debit cards.

When contactless was first introduced, the limit for a payment was £10. It has increased three times; to £15 in 2010, £20 in 2012 and £30 in 2015, giving consumers more opportunities to use the technology.

And contactless has been so popular some businesses, notably cafes, do not take cash, meaning consumers can only pay by card.

Food and drink retailers are the most popular places for consumers to pay with contactless, followed by the entertainment sector.

There is now a generation of customers who are used to paying with contactless, while mandates from payments companies will ensure terminals are contactless-enabled in the future.

We are certain contactless will continue to grow in popularity as it enters its second decade.

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