A Decade On, U.K. Keeps Driving Contactless Revolution: Visa Study

If you’re a young Londoner who bought groceries today, there’s a fairly good chance you used a contactless method to pay for them.

U.K. consumers continue to be leaders in their enthusiasm for contactless payments, according to Visa. And that enthusiasm continues to grow, as contactless adopters embrace not only cards, but mobile payments as well.

The company’s annual Digital Payments study confirms that the U.K. leads Europe in contactless transaction volume. According to the study, two-thirds of British consumers have used contactless cards since their introduction in 2007.

Unsurprisingly, urban and younger consumers are the most likely adopters. Contactless usage is highest in London, Visa’s study said, where nearly 80% of consumers have made a payment using a contactless card.

More than three fourths of shoppers aged 18 to 35 reported that they had made contactless purchases, whereas just over half of those over 65 had done so.

Grocery stores and supermarkets see the highest volume of contactless payments, followed by fast food and transportation, Visa’s study reported.

“The introduction of contactless cards in the U.K. ten years ago was a watershed moment for consumers. Whether buying lunch, commuting without having to top-up, queuing at bars and festivals, or donating to charity, Brits have come to expect a painless payment experience,” Kevin Jenkins, managing director for Visa U.K. and Ireland, said in a press release.

Earlier this year, Barclaycard reported that British consumers were using contactless payments for just over half of eligible payments, and that contactless payments volume had risen 34% just since the beginning of the year.

Contactless payments have not enjoyed the same enthusiastic adoption in the U.S., where early efforts to introduce tap and pay cards have not paid off.

Mobile payments appear to be the next best hope for leaving swiping and dipping cards behind in the U.S., particularly since mobile has risen to prominence as disillusionment about the consumer experience with EMV has set in.

Recent data from eMarketer shows that mobile payments are growing in the U.S., with the value of such payments up 78% from last year to $49 billion.

American consumers are most likely to use mobile methods to pay for low-ticket value items such as coffee. Mobile payments will capture more than 27% of transactions under $20 this year, the company estimates.

In the U.K., Visa finds that consumers’ existing comfort with contactless transactions has had an impact on their adoption of mobile payments. While a fourth of U.K. shoppers surveyed had made purchases with mobile devices, that percentage rose to 36% among those who said they had used contactless cards.

“There’s still room for the uptake of contactless to grow, particularly outside London and the South East,” Visa’s Jenkins said. “Our study shows the appetite for adopting new payment methods is greater than ever and with mobile devices opening up myriad new ways to pay, the next ten years looks set to see contactless payments become an ever-greater part of our day to day lives.”