Visa: UK contactless payments more than triple in last 12 months

Matthew Finnegan

Contactless card payments grew more than three-fold during 2013 thanks to accelerated rollout by retailers and growing acceptance on public transport, according to Visa Europe.

Despite some initial concerns around the security of near field communication (NFC) enabled cards - with a small number of users complaining that they unwittingly had funds taken from their accounts - the technology is gathering pace among consumers. The latest figures from the payments provider show that 94.3 million purchases were made using its contactless cards last year, up from 25 million during 2012.

There are now 32.1 million Visa contactless cards in circulation in the UK, up 125 percent from 2012, with the average spend totalling £6.09. In its recent financial results, Visa revealed that contactless transactions reached a total of £460 million during 2013.

The UK trails behind Poland, which recorded 159 million purchases over the year, while Spain saw a higher total spend of £618 million.

The growth in use has been driven by roll out of NFC terminals by retailers including Marks & Spencer and Starbucks - increasing by almost 200 percent to more than 300,000.

Visa contactless debit cards have also been used on 10 million journeys on London buses - which have now ditched cash payments - while Transport for London has also revealed plans to enable the technology to be used on the Underground later this year.

"Use of contactless will rise even further in the UK with the arrival of contactless payments on the London Underground later this year," said Sandra Alzetta, executive director at Visa Europe. "We want to make smaller payments and purchases quick and convenient and UK consumers are clearly seeing that contactless can offer them just that."

Visa is not the only payments provider targeting contactless payments. Mastercard has partnered with mobile operator joint venture Weve to provide the processing capabilities for in-store NFS payments using mobile devices, expected to be launched next year.