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Number of debit cards reaches 100 million for first time

There are now more than 100 million debit cards in circulation in the UK for the first time.

The milestone was passed in April, the latest figures from The UK Cards Association show.

The number of debit cards in the UK has grown by 2.7 per cent in the past year, up from 97.6 million to 100.3 million in April 2016. The 50 million card mark was passed in February 2001.

Meanwhile, debit card spending reached £37.8 billion in April, up 6.8 per cent from £36.5 billion the previous year.

The growth in the number of debit cards reflects the changing ways in which consumers make payments and access their money.

Consumers opening new bank accounts routinely receive debit cards as standard. The number of ATM-only cards has been falling substantially in recent years, while cheque guarantee-only cards ended with the closure of the scheme in 2011.

A total of 61.8 million debit cards now feature contactless technology.

Richard Koch, Head of Policy at The UK Cards Association, said:

“Since they were first launched in the UK in June 1987, debit cards have become a prime feature in the nation’s wallets. Now, almost 30 years later, more than half of all retail sales in the UK are made using a debit card. More recently, it has been the growth of contactless, as well as the increasing use of debit cards for online shopping, that has been driving the changes.”

Payment card spending

Total spending on payment cards in April was £53 billion, up by 0.9 per cent on March, the strongest monthly growth in 13 months.

The number of card purchases also increased, also up by 0.9% in the month, reaching a total of just under 1.2 billion.

Contactless cards accounted for 16 per cent of total card purchases in April, up from six per cent in 2015. There were 188 million contactless transactions in the month, worth a total of £1.58 billion.

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