Contactless spending rockets in the UK

Last updated: 07 January 2016

If you saw our #MyNFCDay video series, where bloggers across the world showed how NFC technology is revolutionizing their city lives, you’ll know enthusiasm for contactless payments is rocketing. Now, in light of news that contactless transactions have soared in the UK since the limit rose from £20 to £30 in September 2015, supporters of NFC can go into 2016 with confidence. What’s particularly encouraging is that the increase in contactless transactions is not just being driven by cards, but also mobile and wearable technology – and consumer appetites for new ways to pay appear to be increasing.

The figures, published by Barclaycard, make for interesting reading, and illustrate just how far contactless technology has come in the UK. Get ready for some remarkable statistics…

When you think of Britain and NFC technology, London’s Oyster card is likely to spring to mind. Fascinatingly, though, transport hasn’t been the standout performer (although it’s still seen a promising 55% rise in contactless spending growth).

In fact, topping the table are British pubs, bars, restaurants and service stations. The increase has been significant. In pubs and bars, touch and go payments have nearly doubled in frequency – a 92% increase to be exact. We wonder how long it’ll be before characters in Britain’s beloved soap opera, EastEnders, buy their beers with their NFC-enabled devices in the Queen Victoria pub!

British service stations and supermarkets have also reaped the rewards. Remarkably, contactless spending in service stations has rocketed by 98%, while supermarkets have seen 62% growth in ‘touch and go’ transactions. Nearly a third of all contactless payments occur in a supermarket – and the new upper limit means an entire day’s shopping can be covered by one touch of the NFC reader. Clearly, British consumers are saying goodbye to stressful shopping.

And this surge is not just restricted to contactless cards. Other new technologies are playing their part in the contactless payment revolution – according to the survey, 58% indicated they’re using their mobile and wearables more often to make purchases. These changing patterns are reflected in the fact that eight in 10 UK consumers say they use less cash than they did a year ago, and almost a fifth (19%) now say they’re annoyed if a touch and go option isn’t available.

Clearly, then, the two thirds of UK merchants who do not have contactless facilities are missing out on a significant commercial opportunity. However, the signs are positive for increased NFC adoption in 2016.

Of course, it’s not just the UK which is embracing the contactless revolution. In the US, it was recently revealed that four in ten consumers had made a mobile payment in 2015, while a report indicated that 61% of banks worldwide are set to increase spending on payment technology in 2016.

What do you think about the exciting news from the UK? Do you feel frustrated if there isn’t a contactless payment facility in a bar or restaurant? What do you think the future holds for NFC technology? Let us know by tweeting us at @Gemalto, or by posting a comment below.