Cards overtake cash in the UK – but are cards next to go?

This week, a report from UK Finance revealed that £13.2 billion debit card payments were made last year, a rise of 14% on the previous year, beating the £13.1 billion cash payments made, as the use of notes and coins dropped by 15%.

The report’s findings seem to chime with the longstanding consensus that a cashless UK is just around the corner.

A study released by Paymentsense in April of this year revealed that 80% of UK residents favored card payments, including contactless, as their primary form of payment.

“With card transactions overtaking cash for the first time ever in the UK, retailers of all shapes and sizes should really be asking themselves if their payment experience is up to scratch to meet changing customer preferences”, Myles Dawson, Managing Director, Adyen, said.

“An estimated 63 percent of Britons use contactless regularly, but it is surprising how many merchants still don’t offer this payment method consistently.”

The UK is behind other countries, such as Switzerland and Denmark, in the cashless race.

“The use of cashless payments is growing exponentially across the world, but some countries are more advanced than others. In Sweden, for example, cash is now used in less than 20% of store transactions – half as many as five years ago, according to Sweden’s central bank”, Peter Caparso, President North America,, said.

“Alongside this, no cash accepted signs are becoming more common in Sweden. Also, Denmark is firmly on its way to becoming completely cashless, as its central bank, National Banken, decided in 2015 that it would discontinue the printing of new money from 2016.”

“Anecdotally speaking, I also believe most Londoners would say that it’s easy to live without cash in the capital.”

However, despite the prevalence of card payments, a new report from 2Checkout suggests that digital payments might soon overtake card as the most popular payment type.

Digital payment methods continue to gain popularity, with PayPal accounting for the second most common payment method at 19% of global online sales and 38% in the UK.


(Source: 2Checkout).

Local payment methods such as WeChat Pay and Alipay in Asia and Carte Bancaire in France, also showed a strong presence in the report’s findings, with Alipay accounting for 42% of transactions in China.

The 2Checkout usage data reveals the percentages of payment types used across the world:

United States of America: Visa/ MasterCard 73% | PayPal 14% | AMEX 10% | Rest 3%

United Kingdom: Visa/ MasterCard 58% | PayPal 38% | AMEX 3.5% | Rest 0.5%

France: Visa/ MasterCard 61% | PayPal 25% | Carte Bancaire 12% | Rest 2%

Germany: PayPal 58% | Visa/ MasterCard 30% | Sofortbanking 4.5% | Direct Debit 3% | Rest 4.5%

Canada: Visa/ MasterCard 74% | PayPal 23% | AMEX 3%

China: Alipay 42% | WeChat Pay 3.5% | UnionPay 2.5%

Local payment methods such as WeChat Pay have strong brand presence and elasticity, meaning that they have the potential for wide adoption. Given Amazon’s current foray into financial services, and the likelihood that other tech giants will follow, alternative and digital payment methods are likely to become ever more prevalent. In five years time, the above figures could look very different.

Related reading