Cards account for 81% of pounds spent

Debit and credit card transactions made up more than four in every five pounds spent in 2021, according to the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) latest annual Payments Survey.

This represents 81 per cent of transactions, up from 78 per cent in 2019.

Cash now accounts for only 15 per cent of total spending in retail, down from 20 per cent two years ago. However, it does make up 30 per cent of individual transactions.

The research found that while the number of transactions fell by 13 per cent last year – from 19.1 billion in 2019 to 16.7 billion – consumers spent roughly 20 per cent more per transaction on average. The average transaction value increased from £20.16 in 2019 to £24.15 in 2020.
The trend towards card payments meant retailers were left with a £1 billion bill just to accept these transactions from consumers last year.

Debit cards, which accounted for over half of all transactions - 54 per cent - for the first time, have seen transaction fees rise by 22 per cent, or 7.2 pence per transaction.

“The pandemic has accelerated the trend towards card payments, with more than four in every five pounds spent in retail now made with credit or debit cards,” said Andrew Cregan, payments policy advisor, British Retail Consortium. “Basket sizes also rose, as customers made bigger, but fewer purchases.

“While cash use has declined in importance, it remains vital for many people who do not have access to other payment methods.”

Cregan called on the government to address the rising cost card payments for retailers, urging it to regulate card scheme fees and abolish interchange fees.

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