Barclaycard: contactless transactions surged in 2021 as shoppers and merchants benefited from £100 limit increase

New data from Barclaycard, which sees nearly half of the nation’s credit and debit card transactions, reveals that 91.1% of all eligible card transactions in 2021 were made contactlessly, with the total value of contactless payments made increasing by 40.2%, year-on-year.

The data also shows that shoppers increasingly opted for ‘touch and go’ at the check-out following the limit increase from £45 to £100 in October 2021, which resulted in the average number of transactions made contactlessly in the UK each day growing by 27.5%.

Growth across all sectors

All sectors have benefited from the contactless limit increase, with the payment method saving an average of seven seconds per transaction compared to Chip & PIN and 15 seconds compared to cash.  

Analysis across sectors shows that the value of contactless transactions made in the entertainment sector, which includes cinemas, theatres, bowling alleys, arcades grew by 105.8%, while bars, pubs and clubs drove an 83.4% increase year-on-year.

Other significant increases in the value of payments made include at sports and outdoor retailers (up 64.7%), clothing stores (up 64.6%) and takeaway and fast food outlets (up 39.2%).

How consumers used contactless in 2021

Individually, the average contactless user made 180 contactless payments in 2021, worth a total of £2,293, an increase from 2020 where users made on average 141 payments worth £1,640.  

As UK consumers finalised their festive purchases, Thursday 23 December 2021 was the busiest day for contactless transactions, where the value of eligible sales grew by 121.4%, compared to the daily average of 2021.

Jose Carvalho, head of consumer products at Barclaycard, said: “Our data shows that many shoppers have welcomed the £100 increase to the contactless limit and are now choosing to pay this way for goods and services in store. Unsurprisingly, many consumers are also increasingly reluctant to touch cash or PIN pads when they go to shops which is why innovations that enable a ‘low-touch’ experience, such as contactless payments have really grown in popularity.”

Rob Cameron, CEO of Barclaycard Payments, said: “The increase to the £100 payment limit has been a great opportunity to take friction out of the purchase experience. This is especially the case in busy stores where queues can quickly build up; the faster that line moves through, the more likely shoppers are to have a good experience and want to come back. Speed at the checkout will often avoid shoppers going elsewhere, which is why the limit increase is a win-win for cardholders and merchants.”