Almost 80% of retail sales made via card payments

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Nearly 80% of retail sales were made using debit or credit cards in 2018, BRC payment survey shows
Last year, debit cards accounted for 56.8% of sales by value, while credit and charge cards accounted for 21.5%. (Image: PA)
// Nearly 80% of retail sales were made using debit or credit cards in 2018, according to the BRC Payment Survey
// This is more than 2017, when 76% of retail transactions were done by card
// Cash payments also drop to third place behind debit and credit card spending

Card payments now account for almost 80 per cent of retail purchases, as new figures show credit cards overtaking cash payments in 2018 in terms of the value of sales made.

According to the BRC’s latest Payment Survey, debit cards remain the most popular method of payment, accounting for almost three-in-five transactions.

Last year, debit cards accounted for 56.8 per cent of sales by value, while credit and charge cards accounted for 21.5 per cent and cash made up 20.4 per cent of the total.

This meant that debit and credit cards accounted for nearly 80 per cent of retail sales by value last year.

This is an uptick on figures from 2017, when 76 per cent of retail purchases were done by cards.

Cash was used to pay for £77.7 billion worth of goods in 2018, compared with £80.6 billion in 2017 when it accounted for 22 per cent of sales value and credit and charge cards made up 20.8 per cent.

But in terms of the volume of payments made, cash remained the second most popular payment method, with coins and notes still commonly used for smaller transactions.

In 2018, 9.3 billion transactions were made by debit card, 7.7 billion were in cash and 2.6 billion were made using credit and charge cards.

The average value of a cash payment last year was £10.21, slightly down on £10.78 in 2017.

The BRC said the average value of a payment made in cash had remained around £10 for several years.

The average transaction made by credit card had a higher value, at £31.71.

The BRC also said total UK retail sales increased by 4.1 per cent to £381 billion in 2018, from £366 billion the previous year.

There were 20.1 billion transactions in a single year – or more than 55 million per day – up from 19.8 billion in 2017.

The BRC also said card costs continued to rise, as retailers spent £1.3 billion with third parties just to accept payments from customers – a £70 million increase from 2017.

Each transaction costs retailers an average of 5.85p.

Cash remains the most cost-effective payment acceptance channel for retailers, with cards being more costly to process, the BRC’s Payment Survey report said.

The BRC is now calling for action to improve regulation of card payment fees.

It also said Brexit could see retailers paying “significantly more” to accept foreign-issued cards.

“With card payments accounting for almost 80% of retail sales, it is vital that the government takes action to tackle the soaring costs that card companies charge retailers,” BRC policy adviser Andrew Cregan said.

“Without action, we will see businesses put under further pressure and it will be consumers who are forced to pay the price.”

The BRC’s annual Payment Survey was completed by retailers who represent over a third of UK retail annual sales turnover.

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