UK contactless payments overtakes cheques for the first time

Cheques are become less and less common in the UK according to new research from global market research firm Mintel which claims contactless card use has overtaken cheque payments in the UK for the first time.

The report claims that less than one third of people in the UK used a cheque to pay for something in the past three months – a decline from 40% in the same period a year ago.

This means they are now the least popular form of payment, coming in behind debit cards with 39% and contactless credit cards with 34%.

The report points out that while contactless technology isn’t new, payment habits don’t change overnight and use has only gained real momentum quite recently.

“The real shift in behaviour has only come over the last few years,” says Rich Sepherd, an analyst at Mintel.

“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 there is not necessarily a correlation between the two payments form factors, the research points to the growing popularity of contactless payments in Europe. There are also signs that mobile payments are becoming more common, with 34% of smartphone owners in the UK saying they have made a payment on their device in the 12 months to April according to Mintel research.

“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. 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,” Rich comments.

While cheques may be declining and contactless becomes more widespread, however, UK customers are not yet convinced by the prospect of a cashless society.

According to the report, 54% of those polled said they were not comfortable with the idea of abandoning cash altogether.

Related reading