Contactless payments are up, but remain rarely used

The amount spent using contactless payment technology in the UK is five times higher than one year ago, but the technology has yet to catch on in a big way.
Written by Nick Heath, Contributor

The amount spent using contactless payments in the UK has increased fivefold over the past year, but still accounts for a tiny fraction of overall payments, according to figures from Visa Europe.

Brits spent £45.2m and made 6.8 million purchases using Visa's contactless cards, which allow payments to be made by tapping the card onto a contactless reader, in June 2103 — five times the amount spent in the same month last year.

UK shoppers made 51 million contactless purchases over the past year, according to the figures, with the average spend via contactless being £6.65. However, contactless payments still only account for a fraction of the overall payments handled by Visa Europe, which can process around 50 million transactions on a single day during the run-up to Christmas.

There are currently more than 28 million Visa contactless cards and 280,000 contactless terminals in the UK. Visa Europe predicts there will be more than 33 million contactless cards in the UK by the end the year.

There are still relatively few outlets that accept contactless payments, but large retailers such as M&S, McDonalds, Pret A Manger, Boots, Co-op, WHSmith, Starbucks and Costcutter do accept the payments. Major banks such as Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, Natwest and RBS issue contactless cards.

In May this year the UK retailer Marks and Spencer said it was handling more than 230,000 contactless transactions every week.

Across Europe €1.5 billion has been spent on 187 million purchases using Visa's contactless payment services.

Contactless mobile payments, which use the same underlying NFC technology (and are seen as the next step for contactless payments), remain at best nascent thanks to confusion over standards, business models and a lack of a compelling customer proposition — even though it's an area that mobile operators, handset manufacturers and credit card companies are eyeing with great interest.

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