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UK debit cards overtake cash for first time: study

King no longer
AFP

London (AFP) – Cash is no longer king in Britain — and has been usurped by debit cards, thanks to rapid changes in technology and consumer behaviour, new research showed Monday.

Debit card payments overtook cash last year for the first time, as more and more Britons embraced contactless transactions, online shopping and payment by smartphone, trade association UK Finance revealed in a study.

“Evolving consumer habits, increasing access to card payments and new technology are providing consumers with more choice,” UK Finance concluded.

Consumers made a total of 13.2 billion debit card transactions in 2017, beating the 13.1 billion payments that were made in cash, UK Finance said.

Almost two thirds of Britons now use contactless, according to the organisation which represents 300 top firms in finance, banking and payment-related services. 

The total number of contactless transactions meanwhile doubled in one year to reach 5.6 billion on both credit and debit cards, as more businesses accepted the method that does not require a PIN number.

At the same time, the overall number of cash payments slid 15 percent in 2017.

And some 3.4 million Britons almost never use cash any more, instead relying on cards and other payment methods.

However, many people still rely heavily on cash. 

Around 2.2 million people mainly used cash for their day-to-day shopping in 2017.

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

“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.”

Cash was still expected to retain its place as the second most frequently used method over the next decade, UK Finance added.

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