Future contactless growth to be fuelled by mobile wallets.

Contactless payments usage reached record levels in 2023 as all age ranges now use this method of purchasing and spend levels are also on the rise with a 10.2% year-on-year increase versus 2022.


According to Consumer Spend data from Barclays as many as 93.4% of all in-store card transactions were made with the ‘touch and pay’ solution in 2023 – for transactions below £100, which is the current limit for contactless purchases in the UK. It has been gradually increased from an initial £10 in 2007.


This represents a 7.8% increase in the number of transactions undertaken compared with 2022, which was helped by the increased willingness of people of all ages to use this method to pay for goods in-store. For the fourth consecutive year the over-65s were the fastest growing segment with contactless usage up 4.1% year-on-year. There is also a noticeable uptick in usage by the 85-95-year-old grouping where the percentage of active users has just nudged over the 80% level for the first time.


Karen Johnson, head of retail at Barclays, says: “Since we rolled out contactless payments to the UK in 2007, it has firmly cemented itself as the UK’s favourite payment method, thanks to its speed and convenience. Given the growing number of cashless businesses, I’m pleased to see that many older shoppers are embracing touch and go, and that the gap in contactless usage between age demographics continues to narrow.”


Where the age groups diverge is with the use of mobile wallets. The Barclays research shows that only 3% of over-75s prefer a mobile payment over using a physical card, whereas 25% of 18-34-year-olds prefer to use their phone to buy in-store. The advantage of using mobile phones and wallets is the ability to pay a bill over the present £100 contactless threshold.


For now the purchasing of goods over this limit for the majority of people is very much dealt with using chip & pin. As many as 78% of those surveyed stated it was one of their top two choices, while 23% opts for using cash, and mobile wallets placed third, with 19% choosing this method.


There is no doubt that mobile wallets will continue to grow in usage as many younger shoppers choose to go cardless when leaving home, with 22% of 18-34-year-olds regularly venturing out without their wallet and payment cards. In contrast, only 1% of over-75s have adopted such behaviour.


“In 2024, we expect to see a greater shift to payments using wallets, as more bricks & mortar businesses integrate the technology into their customer experience. Many of our hospitality & leisure clients are finding success by giving customers the ability to order and pay from their table by scanning a QR code,” says Johnson.


With the growing variety of ways consumers can pay using contactless technology the average person increased the number of times they paid this way – up from 220 to 231 transactions in 2023 – and the average spend moved up 3.8% to £15.69. This equates to £3,623 spent in total during the year using contactless payment methods.


This boost in usage is reflected in the overall levels of spending, according to the Barclays data, which found contactless spend increased by 10.2% in 2023. Within this headline figure, retail moved up 9.7%, clothing 6.2% and grocery 10.4%. This compares with an increase of 11.5% in hospitality & leisure, 16.3% in travel, and 12.1% in entertainment. 

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