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Capital of card payments: Where is COVID-19 accelerating cashless spending?

30 October 2020 Data Insights

In the UK, more than 7.4 million people are already living a cashless life, doubling in the past two years according to UK Finance. This figure is rising drastically in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with speculation that it could dramatically hasten Britain’s transformation into a fully cashless society.

Debit cards have been growing in popularity as a go-to payment method in the UK since 2017, and with the introduction of contactless payment, the use of cash has been rapidly declining even before the pandemic.

We looked at our data to reveal which British cities are well on their way to a cashless future. To achieve this, we analysed card transaction data between March and September in 2020. We found the cities across the UK where the use of contactless card transactions and Apple/Google/Samsung Pay has increased the most in 2020, revealing the UK’s contactless capitals.

St Albans has seen the biggest increase in contactless spending

Our analysis of the number of contactless card payments in each UK city has revealed that the commuter city of St Albans, Hertfordshire, has embraced cash-free options over the last six months. Our data shows that a huge 86% of payments in St Albans were made by contactless cards, a year-on-year increase of 19% since 2019.

Residents of Halifax, one of Yorkshire’s most famed market towns, also favour contactless payment, with 84% of transactions over the past six months using the technology. This year, Halifax has also seen a year-on-year increase of 13%, placing it at number two on our ranking.

Brighton ranks third, where 82% of shoppers have used contactless card payments throughout 2020, a 12% year-on-year increase.

Uk Cities Where Contactless Payments Increased the Most

Capital of Cards Ranking Table

Londoners are turning to Apple and Google Pay more than anywhere else in the UK

Although the UK has seen a huge increase in the use of contactless payment methods, Apple, Google and Samsung Pay have not proved as popular. Londoners have embraced these digital payment technologies the most, with 8% of all transactions being on Apple/Google/Samsung Pay in 2020. The city also has a year-on-year increase of 5% since 2019. That said, physical cards still dominate the market with London seeing 82% of all transactions using contactless payment methods in the last six months.

Bristol and Manchester take the second and third spot respectively on our top cities for Apple and Google Play, as 6% of all transactions in both cities being on mobile, an increase of 4% year-on-year.

Interestingly, the people of St Albans have also been keen on using Apple Pay during the Covid era, alongside physical contactless cards. Apple Pay and Google Pay usage has seen a 4% increase in the city throughout the last six months.


The UK Cities Where Digital Pay Has Increased the Most

Capital of Digital Payments Ranking Table

Contactless cards dominate digital payment methods

Contactless credit and debit cards and Apple and Google Pay usage has surged in the UK. But it’s the use of the physical contactless card payments which has caught on far more than their mobile competition, perhaps because consumers are less trusting of storing their bank details on their phone. 

Either way, the average increase in the use of contactless payment cards was at 79.15% in 2020, an increase of 9.35% of usage from the previous year. This is in comparison to Apple Pay and Google Pay, which only held an average of 6.5% of transactions in 2020.

With more and more businesses refusing to accept cash, and consumers preferring to pay using contactless methods to stop the spread of germs, the decline in cash payments looks set to continue at pace. Major cities will continue their transition to a cashless society, with contactless cards and mobile payments battling it out to gain the share of consumer habits.

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In order to discover which city has most embraced contactless payment methods, Paymentsense analysed anonymised card transaction data from their customer base. They analysed the number of contactless transactions, as well as Apple/Google/Samsung pay transactions, from across the UK in order to discover how they have increased over the past six months during the COVID-19 pandemic. Note, all Apple, Google and Samsung Pay contactless data in this report refers to payments over £45 only.

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