The Covid-19 pandemic has seen the nation increasingly rely on contactless in order to make payments and maintain social distancing. Using contactless is greatly encouraged in order to limit possible infection, and the government has raised the contactless limit several times over the last year, going from £30 to now £100.
Alexander von Schirmeister, is Executive Vice President for Europe at SumUp, a mobile payments company. Here Alexander shares his thoughts on the recent announcement of the £100 contactless limit and what this means for retailers.
Alexander von Schirmeister, Executive Vice President for Europe at SumUp
British retailers have experienced little cheer in the last twelve months, with their open signs being flipped back and forth depending on tiers and national lockdowns. So when the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced in his 2021 Budget that the contactless limit would be raised to £100, you can be sure that many retailers across the country cracked a well-deserved smile.
The announcement had been teased for weeks: with the EU limiting contactless spending to £45, lobbyists have been pushing for the limit to be raised in the UK ever since Brexit was finalised. However, this move should be seen as far more than a cursory statement of post-European independence.
The pandemic has changed the way that we spend. With customers developing misgivings about handling banknotes and coins during the early stages of lockdown, they turned further to card and mobile payments. In fact, such was the demand for contactless payments that 69% of retailers have seen contactless payments rise since January 2020.
As the high street gradually reopened throughout the summer, pubs, shops, and galleries began to welcome customers back who, after a number of lean months, were eager to spend. SumUp’s data from 2020 shows that the tourism industry saw a +495% increase in cashless transactions in comparison with 2019, and grocery stores were up 252%.
These were by no means small transactions either; since the limit was previously raised to £45 in April 2020, contactless transactions over £30 grew from 4% to 7% of all contactless transactions made using SumUp readers through to December – showing a growing public acceptance of the new increased limit.
The pandemic accelerated what was already becoming obvious: that cash was being superseded by contactless payments. For retailers, the benefits are numerous: contactless, card and mobile payments mean that transactions are easy to account for, and with the huge number of online accountancy services available now this has reduced that stress hugely for vendors.
For customers, too, it means increased security: technology solutions such as email receipts, immediate banking updates, and payment security teams have all progressed leaps and bounds to make contactless payments safe and secure – that means no more having to worry about fivers dropped on the street.
Moreover, raising the contactless card limit is merely closing the gap with mobile payments, for which there is not a cap. With mobile payments becoming increasingly popular, this will bring financial equality to those for whom mobile payments are not an option.
The WHO’s advice to avoid handling cash in the early stages of the pandemic still rings true today; contactless payments remain the best way to support brick-and-mortar retailers while limiting risks ). By raising the limit to £100 the number of occasions both consumers and retailers have to handle and pass cash is reduced
All this feeds into a burgeoning contactless future, creating a society where cash is a relic of a distant past and digital transactions reign supreme. The increase in the contactless limit is more than a practical solution to the problems caused by the pandemic; it is a signpost of times to come.