The opportunity for contactless in the UK

Woman paying with contactless

Contactless payments has been one of the most defining trends in how UK consumers shop over the past few years. Even before the pandemic, data from UK finance showed that millions more of us were tapping to pay for our everyday purchases. 2020 accelerated that shift. As Covid-19 shaped how we all lived our daily lives, consumers increasingly depended on contactless payments for a touch-free and seamless shopping experience.

This shift in consumer preference for contactless has led to the recent announcement by the FCA and UK Government about an increase of the contactless payment limit from £45 to £100. At Visa, we believe this a good move for British shoppers and retailers for a number of reasons:

1.     British consumers can shop in the way they want

Consumers and businesses alike are looking forward to a time when restrictions ease and our high streets are back open. When this happens, it will be crucial that people are provided with the confidence that returning to the high street will be a positive experience.

Consumers increasingly prefer to tap to pay when shopping, eating out or travelling on public transport. Recent Visa data shows that eight in ten in-person payments are contactless1. Our Back to Business study also revealed that across the world nearly two-thirds (65%) of consumers would prefer to use contactless payments as much as, or even more than, they are currently. With the new contactless limit of £100, almost all card transactions, including typical purchases like a weekly grocery shop, to avoid the need for Chip & PIN2. This gives people the choice to pay in the way that is right for them.

2.    Contactless is a secure way to pay

Visa rigorously monitors payments fraud across the world and contactless remains one of the most secure ways to pay, with one of the lowest fraud rates of any type of payment. Despite the contactless limit rising by 50% last year, there has been no rise in fraud rateswith the European contactless fraud rate remaining below 0.01%.Furthermore, other countries, such as Australia, Singapore and Canada have successfully increased limits to over £100, with fraud remaining low.

Contactless fraud can only be attempted physically using a lost or stolen card. Regardless of the contactless limit, all transactions are subject to sophisticated real-time analysis when they are approved, and banks can block them or request a PIN to authorise the transaction in case of suspicious activity.

Many of the things people fear, such as fraudsters using mobile payment terminals to “skim” the details from your card, are in reality incredibly unlikely. And if you do suspect you might be a victim of fraud, then Visa’s Zero Liability Policy provides a guarantee that you won't be held responsible for any unauthorised payments made with your card or card details.

3.    The higher limit will help support the economic recovery

Contactless payments are popular and secure. With many small businesses having had a challenging past year, it’s going to be crucial that footfall returns as soon as possible. The new £100 limit will help retailers, especially many small stores, get back on their feet by increasing sales and in turn contribute to our economic recovery.

We believe the decision to increase the limit to £100 is a positive move for British shoppers and high streets alike. We stand ready to work with our clients and partners to support the Government and the FCA to make this happen as soon as possible, so both consumers and retailers can benefit as the economy opens up. 

Last updated: 9 March 2021


1 VisaNet Data (December 2020)
2 Statista (2020)
3 VisaNet Data (November 2020)
4 VisaNet Data (December 2020)
VisaNet Data (December 2020)


Tag: Digital commerce