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Number of debit cards passes 100m milestone

By Vicky Shaw

Published 01/07/2016

Spending: cards are on the rise
Spending: cards are on the rise

The number of debit cards in circulation in the UK has reached more than 100 million for the first time, according to figures from a trade body.

The UK Cards Association said the milestone was passed in April, with the growth reflecting the rising popularity of contactless 'tap and go' payments, as well as online shopping.

The number of debit cards in the UK increased by 2.7% in the past year, up from 97.6 million to 100.3 million in April. It comes more than 15 years after the 50 million card mark was passed - in February 2001.

A total of 61.8 million debit cards now feature contactless technology. In September 2015, the transaction limit for a single contactless payment was increased by £10 to £30.

A recent report from Payments UK predicted that debit cards were set to overtake cash to be the country's most frequently used payment method by 2021.

Richard Koch, head of policy at the UK Cards Association, said: "Since they were first launched in the UK in June 1987, debit cards have become a prime feature in the nation's wallets.

"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."

Previous figures covering 2015 showed that more than nine in 10 UK adults have debit cards in their wallets and purses, with 49.1 million holders.

The association said many people may have more than one card as they tend to be sent out as standard when someone opens a current account.

People can end up with more than one debit card if they open an account to get a perk such as a special offer or a good interest rate, while also keeping another account open for a different purpose.

Full-time workers and people in higher income brackets are more likely to hold both debit cards and credit cards. Debit card holding and usage is also more common among younger people than older generations.

Belfast Telegraph

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