2021 was the biggest year of contactless payments yet

By Amelia Isaacs on Thursday 17 March 2022

Digital Banking

Last year proved to be the year of contactless payments in the UK — more than 13bn transactions were made over 12 months, with an average of 415 every second.

2021 was the biggest year of contactless payments yet
Image source: Unsplash.

Since the spending limit on contactless payments increased from £45 to £100 in October 2021, both the number and value of transactions have skyrocketed. 

New data from UK Finance reveals that after the limit was raised to ten times the original cap that was set in 2007 of just £10, the average amount spent per contactless card transaction rose by a further 30 per cent.

In September, before the increase, the average spend was £11.86.

This rose by £3.44 to £15.30 in December after the new limit was introduced on October 15 and then gradually introduced across retailers and payment providers over the following months.

Across the year as a whole, there were 13.1bn contactless payments, equivalent to 415 transactions every second.

This was a 36 per cent increase compared to 2020 and 52 per cent higher than pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

The value of contactless transactions also increased drastically last year, more than doubling pre-pandemic levels from £80.5bn in 2019 to £165.9bn in 2021.

The proportion of card payments that were contactless continued to increase throughout the year, reaching its highest recorded level.

Contactless payments accounted for 69 per cent of all debit card transactions and 56 per cent of all those on credit cards in 2021. 

"These figures show the continued popularity of contactless payments, as well as the fact people are making higher value payments,” director of economic insight and research at UK Finance, Lee Hopley, said.

“[The new limit] gives customers greater choice about how they pay for things like their weekly shop or a tank of fuel.”

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