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Contactless more popular than cash with consumers

26 Dec 2016

Survey shows almost one in four are regular users of contactless cards

  • One in five are happy to use contactless for purchases of less than £1
  • Majority of consumers now withdrawing cash once a week or less

As the Boxing Day sales get underway, new research reveals that for purchases of £30 and under we’re more likely to ‘tap to pay’ rather than hand over cash, as contactless payments overtake cash as the preferred payment method for UK consumers.

A survey of more than 3,000 adults across the UK by first direct found almost one in four people (24 per cent) regularly use the contactless payment method, while just 18 per cent prefer cash for similar purchases.

Consumers aged 35 to 44 are the biggest fans of contactless cards, with a third (33 per cent) saying they use them regularly, followed by 25 to 34-year-olds.

The research also found contactless cards are being used for even the smallest purchases.

According to the UK Cards Association, the average contactless transaction is now £8.76, but one in five (20 per cent) in the first direct survey said they would use a contactless card to buy a chocolate bar or a packet of crisps. More than one in four (27 per cent) would happily use a card for purchases of less than £2.

And the survey suggests the rise of contactless over cash as a payment method for purchases under £30 is having a knock-on effect on cash withdrawals.

Almost half of Brits (45 per cent) withdraw cash less than once a week, while one in four (24 per cent) use an ATM just once a week on average.

As a result, more than one in four (28 per cent) are carrying less than £10 in cash in their purse or wallet each day.

Tracy Garrad, chief executive of first direct , said: “Contactless payment is as quick and convenient as cash, but it can also help those who want to have better control over their spending. Unlike with cash, there’s a transaction record for every card payment, so you can see at a glance where your money has gone.

“Apple and Android Pay have given contactless payments a real boost too, as those who’ve registered don’t even need to dig out their card to make small payments.”

Other key findings from the research include:

  • 28 per cent of UK adults budget either weekly or monthly – and stick to their budgets.
  • Almost three quarters (72 per cent) of current account holders check their bank statements thoroughly, with the over-55s being the most diligent when it comes to examining statements
  • Nearly one in four (22 per cent) check their bank balance at least once a day 
  • More than half (56 per cent) of all current account holders like to have personal contact with their bank, either over the phone or through a branch

Tracy Garrad added: “The research shows the majority of us like to keep a close eye on where our money goes. We go through our statements with a fine-toothed comb and frequently go online to check our accounts. That is reflected in the number of mobile account logins by our customers, which is up 23 per cent this year and is now more popular than desktop logins.

“But although there is an increasing preference for consumers to conduct their banking online or via an app, it’s clear the opportunity for personal contact with your bank is still very important. Only one in three prefer digital-only banking.”


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Online and 24-hour telephone bank, first direct, has become the first UK bank to launch a true transactional, Banking 'on the go' App for Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch. The App, launched today on the Apple App Store, allows first direct customers to check balances, view the last 20 account transactions, make payments and transfer money between accounts.

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