High Streets Initiative · 1 August 2017

Cash free shopping in sight as retailers back increase to contactless payment limit

Close-up of woman making payment through NFC in cafeteria
A fifth of retailers offering contactless payments registered a 50 per cent rise in daily transactions

A cashless future for British high streets may have been brought a step closer, after new research showed a majority of UK retailers favour an increase to the contactless payment limit.

The study, from Barclaycard, analysed spending trends and survey responses to highlight a strong appetite for “touch and go” payments from both consumers and retailers.

The current payment ceiling of £30 was introduced in September 2015, rising from £20. Now, over a third would increase it to £50, while fifth of retail owners offering the technology favoured a new contactless payment limit of £100.

Survey findings also confirmed the business benefits retailers have experienced from contactless payments.

Three-quarters of shop owners offering contactless processed an average 30 per cent more transactions each day since introducing the technology, while a fifth registered up to 50 per cent more.

Meanwhile, over a third of shoppers said they used cash less and less in the past year.

Commenting on the findings, Tami Hargreaves, director of innovation and partnerships at Barclaycard Mobile Payments, said UK consumers and retailers alike were embracing contactless.

“As the old adage goes, ‘time is money’, and since introducing contactless to the UK ten years ago, we’ve seen Brits embrace the technology in their droves,” Hargreaves said.

“With speed, security and convenience all being so important for shoppers, it’s not surprising that contactless is quickly becoming the most popular way to pay.”

Recent figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) revealed card sales accounted for over half of all retail transactions in 2016, overtook cash for the first time. The shift was partly attributed to the increased contactless payment limit.

Now, Barclaycard has predicted sales from contactless to increase 317 per cent by 2021. Despite consumer behaviour clearly heading in one direction, half of all retailers are yet to introduce contactless payment technology into their stores.

Hargreaves added: “Faster service also means less time waiting to pay for a morning coffee or sandwich in the midst of the lunchtime rush – which will undoubtedly be music to the ears for the millions of Brits who get frustrated by queues and long wait times.”

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This article is part of a wider campaign called the High Streets Initiative, a new section of Business Advice championing independent and small retailers by identifying the issues that put Britain’s high streets under pressure. Visit our High Streets Initiative section to find out more.

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Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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