Card payments are expected to overtake cash payments in the UK for the first time this year, as shoppers begin to favour digital for increasingly smaller purchases.
According to new data gathered by the Guardian from UK Finance, 2016 saw the lowest number of withdrawals from cash machines since 2010, with the total volume dropping £6 billion from 2015.
The sharp drop in the use of cash has led to the lowest level of growth of cash circulating in the economy since 1972.
This has been driven by a growing tendency across the UK to use cards for smaller purchases in places like pubs and cafes, with pub chain Wetherspoons reporting a near 20 per cent drop in cash payments in the last four years.
“Britain has well and truly embraced a cashless society because of its ease and convenience,” Mark Latham, the director of card machine provider Handepay, told the Guardian.
“When (contactless payment) was first introduced in the UK in 2007, there was a lot of ambivalence, but adoption over the past few years has been rapid because of demand.”
Despite this the volume and value of bank notes in circulation is higher than ever before, though swathes of this cash is lying dormant in vaults and ATMs.
The commercial director of Vaultex, which handles roughly a third of the UK’s cash, Mark Trevor added: “While industry figures do show a decline in cash use, the idea that we will all be going cashless has been greatly exaggerated.”