The rise of contactless payments.

The Norman Knight Card Machine

The rise of contactless payments.

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Ever heard the phrase ‘cash is king’? It was a popular phrase in the 1980s. But carrying around cash is no longer the way customers are operating. Instead, they want speed and convenience.

In fact, a 2017 study by Barclaycard found that two in five retailers now only accept card payments or plan to become completely cash-free in the next five years. 

And according to stats from UK Finance, 19% of all payments made in 2018 were by contactless. And they predict that to increase to 37% by 2028. 

Add to that the fact that there were almost 124 million contactless cards in circulation by the end of 2018, with 84% of debit cards and 64% of credit cards having contactless functionality. And by 2020, the card industry has committed to making sure that every bank issued card machine in the UK will be able to accept contactless payments. This means it’ll be available almost everywhere. 

So, the message we’re trying to get across is that contactless is a big deal and if you’re not currently accepting it, you could be missing out on potential sales. In fact, the 2017 Barclaycard study also found that retailers who accept contactless have seen their number of sales increase by an average of 30 per cent. 

The rise of contactless.

Credit and debit card payments are not new. Remember when you used to have to take your customer’s card off them, swipe it through the machine, and wait for the receipt to print. Then you’d have to ask the customer to sign the receipt, before checking their signature against the one on the back of the card? Phew, I’m tired just thinking about it!

The introduction of chip and PIN in 2006 sped things up a little bit, as the customer only needed to enter their card and put in their PIN number to make a payment.  

And in 2007, Barclaycard introduced contactless payments, where customers could tap and go on payments up to £30, speeding things up even more, although it’s only picked up properly over the last few years or so.

Why is contactless so popular?

There are a number of different key reasons. Let’s take a look:


According to figures from the same 2017 Barclaycard study, contactless is 7 seconds quicker per transaction than its chip and PIN counterpart, and 15 seconds quicker than cash. With this in mind, it is set to save Brits 141 million hours, worth £967m in time by 2021.

And it means you can reduce queuing time in your business as you can serve more people more quickly.


Another reason to explain this shift in the ways consumers spend their money is because of how simple and easy it has become to pay. Contactless has enabled made paying for items so much easier.

Increased average spend.

As the customer isn’t limited to the amount of cash they have in their pocket, they could be more likely to spend more in store with you. 

Attract new customers.

If you previously didn’t offer contactless or card payments at all, you could open yourself up to a brand new set of customers who don’t carry cash.


Contactless uses similar security features in the background to Chip and PIN technology, so they’re super safe.

Your customers won’t need to worry about accidentally making a contactless payment either, as they only work within a few centimetres from the machine. They’re also protected against accidental double-taps, so you can’t accidentally take payments twice.

Will other payment methods take off too?

We’re sure they will. In fact, new ways of making payments over £30 with contactless are already being trialled.

Natwest are testing debit cards that contain an electronic copy of the customers’ fingerprint on one corner. If the customer places their finger on that section of the card while tapping it on a card machine, it’ll authorise a contactless payment over £30, without the customer having to type in their PIN.

But could we be heading into an era where people don’t even pay with cards at all? That might be someway off, but digital wallet platforms like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay are allowing customers to make transactions via their mobile phones and tablets already.

And you probably won’t be surprised to learn that payment via a contactless bracelet is now also increasing in popularity. Take a look at an example of one here

We’re excited to see what the future holds!

David Goulden

David Goulden


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