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Number of debit cards hits 100m for first time

Number of debit cards hits 100m for first time

Category: Banking

Updated: 01/07/2016
First Published: 01/07/2016

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Using cards instead of cash is a growing trend, but it isn't just credit cards that are making headlines. Indeed, new figures from The UK Cards Association show that there are now more than 100 million debit cards in circulation in the UK, the first time this milestone has been hit.

This milestone was actually passed in April, when the Association recorded 100.3 million debit cards in circulation, marking an increase of 2.7% in the past year (up from 97.6 million in April 2015). Spending on those cards is also on the rise, with the total reaching £37.8bn in April, up from the £36.5bn spent on such cards a year ago.

All this "reflects the changing ways in which consumers make payments and access their money", it said in the report, and analysis suggests that much of it is the result of changes in payment technology and banking services as a whole.

Receiving a debit card when you open a current account is now standard, but it hasn't always been that way. ATM-only cards, for example, used to be widespread, as did cheque guarantee cards, which have now been phased out completely. And what about online shopping? Non-cash payments are the only possible option, and with many people choosing to avoid credit, it's little wonder that debit card use is surging ahead.

Then there's the rise in contactless, which has opened up a whole new way for people to pay. A total of 61.8 million debit cards now feature contactless technology, with contactless cards accounting for 16% of total card purchases in April (up from 6% a year ago), and with the continued uptake and awareness of this form of payment, these totals are only set to grow.

"Since they were first launched in the UK in June 1987, debit cards have become a prime feature in the nation's wallets," said Richard Koch, head of Policy at The UK Cards Association. "Now, almost 30 years later, more than half of all retail sales in the UK are made using a debit card. More recently, it has been the growth of contactless, as well as the increasing use of debit cards for online shopping, that has been driving the changes."

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