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Total UK contactless spending rose by nearly a third last year to £69 billion, with tap and pay now accounting for more than 40% of all card transactions, according to industry figures.

The UK is now a contactless country, with 123 million of the country’s 159 million debit and credit cards incorporating the technology, according to UK Finance.

And, thanks in large part to adoption on public transport, these cards are being heavily used, with 7.4 billion contactless transactions in 2018, 31% up on 2017.

While debit still dominates, the number of contactless credit card payments is growing at a faster rate, up 44% on the previous year.

In December, of 1.6 billion debit and credit card transactions, 691 million were contactless – about 43%.

Total spending on debit cards in 2018 was £584 billion, up 3.7% on the year before, while credit card spending was £192 billion, up 7.8%.

Eric Leenders, MD, personal finance, UK Finance, says: “Many of us are now reaching for our cards or mobiles rather than cash to make low-value purchases, as customers opt for the convenience and security of paying with contactless.

“There has also been an increase in credit card use although growth in outstanding balances has slowed, suggesting many consumers are using their cards for day-to-day spending rather than as a means of borrowing.”

Despite the seemingly unstoppable march of plastic, a recent report warned of the dangers of leaving cash behind.

The Access to Cash review prepared on behalf of the Link ATM network, concludes that digital payments don’t yet work for everyone and around eight million adults (17% of the population) would struggle to cope in a cashless society.

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