Marks and Spencer hits contactless payment milestone

Retailer now processing 230,000 contactless payments each week.

Retailer Marks & Spencer has now completed the roll-out of contactless payments technology to 644 of its UK stores, and is now processing over 230,000 contactless transactions every week.

Customers can use contactless cards to pay for shopping up to a value of £20 without entering their Pin. The transaction is carried out by tapping a card against a contactless payments-enabled terminal and can be significantly faster than paying by cash or entering a Pin.

M&S said one in seven (14 percent) card transactions under £20 are now contactless, with a quarter of contactless payments processed by self-checkout tills in the retailer's food halls.

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The contactless roll-out followed a trial in 25 London stores last summer. And paying using contactless seems to be an urban phenomenon: London has the highest levels of contactless transactions, followed by Manchester, Croydon and Reading.

At the M&S Finsbury Pavement store in the City of London, one in three card transactions under £20 are now contactless. The store's manager Richard Cooke said self-checkout tills are already very popular, and using contactless helps them to reduce queue times further.

While these numbers are low — and many retailers adoption had been far slower than M&S' if indeed they've adopted it at all — momentum is slowly building behind contactless payments as contactless credit cards become ubiquitous.

Visa Europe predicts there will be over 33 million contactless cards in the UK by the end the year.

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