The circulation of debit cards in the U.K. has hit a major milestone.

The U.K. Cards Association announced on Thursday (June 30) that there are more than 100 million debit cards in the U.K.

Growth in debit card circulation has increased 2.7 percent over the past year, surging from 97.6 million to 100.3 million in April of this year.

In a statement from The U.K. Cards Association, the organization’s head of policy, Richard Koch, said:

“Since they were first launched in the U.K. 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 U.K. 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.”

According to the association, debit card spending in the U.K. reached £37.8 billion earlier this year, showing a 6.8 percent jump from £36.5 billion in 2015.

There are many factors contributing to the rise in debit cards in the U.K. market, including consumers opening new bank accounts and the changing ways in which consumers make payments and access funds.

The U.K. Cards Association’s data found that the number of ATM-only cards has drastically decreased in recent years and the check guarantee-only card scheme ended in 2011.

With the popularity of contactless payments in the U.K., it’s no surprise that 61.8 million debit cards in the region now include contactless technology.

The monthly spending on contactless cards reached a record £1.5 billion in March 2016, according to The U.K. Cards Association. In March, approximately 179.6 million contactless purchases took place, amounting to 67 transactions being made every second.

Earlier this year, Visa Europe released data showing that one in five in-person card transactions are now being made with a contactless card in the region. This translates to nearly 3 billion tap-and-pay transactions in Europe over the course of the last 12 months, tripling levels from a year ago.


PYMNTS (2016) UK debit card circulation exceeds 100M. Available at: (Accessed: 4 July 2016).