Over the past decade, huge progresses have been made in terms of how we pay for goods and services. Not only have many of us migrated from solely cash purchases in-person to using cards but technological innovations have given us other ways to spend.

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For smaller spends we can now hold our wireless cards or NFC-enabled smartphones above a terminal and if we don't feel like leaving the house, with ecommerce we can now order anything we feel like via mobile apps and websites.

For retailers and Merchants it's important to know how many people are adopting those technologies (and at what rate) in order for them to adapt to the changing landscape; the UK Card Association is one such group that researches this type of information and shares it with their readers.

The UK Card Association is a trade body for the UK payment card industry, with its members issuing over 55 million credit cards and 95 million debit cards in the UK alone and it also tackles card fraud, develops industry standards and aims to help deliver innovation.

The UK Card Association releases monthly documents of statistics that tell us more about how card spending is taking place in the world's fifth largest economy. We have picked the report from July 2015 to discuss the trend with cards' usage and overall consumers' spending; the other monthly reports are also available on their website and we suggest you to take a look.

Key findings from the UK Card Association.

Perhaps the most valuable finding we can take from the document – which details UK payment card spending in July 2015 – is that the number of card payments taking place in the UK is clearly growing.

July 2015 set a new July record with 1.1 billion card purchases being logged; £51.0 billion in cards' transactions (an increase of 0.4% in comparison to June 2015).

The document states that cards' spending has grown at annual rate of 6.9% and though this is down from the growth rate of 7.9% a year ago, it explains that as the UK didn't experience much inflation during the first half of the year "it can be said this represents actual growth in card spending by consumers".

Some major contributing factors to the growth is the number of online purchases which has increased by 22% over the year before and contactless payments which rose by 237% compared to July 2014, likely boosted by the launch of Apple's mobile payment platform Apple Pay which came to the UK in July 2015. Contactless payment card purchases may have been a helping hand too as they now account for 8% of all card transactions in comparison to 2.6% a year ago.

Moreover, the document even offers some insight on how much each card-based transaction is worth and in what sector. The Average Transaction Value (ATV) on all payment cards fell by 22p to £45.96 (it was £47.70 a year ago), retail sales were down 10p to £32.27, and in services the ATV dropped by 50p to £74.40. In online card transactions the ATV fell by 18p to £86.03, while in person it fell by 27p to £40.68.

Meanwhile, the ATV on contactless transactions is £6.98 which is below the £20 transaction limit of July 2015 – and it also suggests that the increase the this limit (it rose to £30 from September 2015) may not have been a big deal to many UK consumers.

Also worth noting is the fact that the UK Card Association says that this is the third year the ATV has been in decline "mainly driven by record low inflation and declining commodity prices" and the fact that more people shop at discount retailers such as Aldi and Lidl.

Additionally, the group states that there is an "ongoing migration of low value cash payments to cards" which suggests that more of us than ever are buying everything with our cards.

What does this mean for Consumers?

What this means for consumers is that they will need to be more vigilant of where they're using their cards as an increase of usage comes with an increase in malicious people who would like to take advantage.

Here is a good list of what consumers should look out for in order to avoid being scammed.

What does this mean for Merchants and Retailers?

Merchants, on the other hand, will want to take a look at the document's breakdown of growth by sectors. For example, just 6% of online purchases were made with supermarkets and the use of cards at garden centres also fell in July 2015 so if you're a Merchant, you will want to take your consumer base into account before you make any big changes regarding the way you conduct business (e.g installing new payment terminals, or establishing an e-commerce presence).

But most of all, Merchants who do make changes to their cardholder environment (e.g by introducing more payment card reading terminals) will need to be re-evaluated for PCI compliance either with a Self-Assessment Questionnaire and/or with the help of a trusted security advisor.

Merchants and retailers are also required to constantly monitor the security of all of their point of sale terminals and they will benefit from the use of a dedicated solution to complete this important task.

Igor Mancini

Written by Igor Mancini

Marketing Director at Advantio. The articles published in the Advantio Blog have the goal of supporting our mission: making IT Security simple for everyone.

My intention is to discuss IT Security related topics with the eyes of a non technical person, speaking a simple language and trying to show to the readers the benefit of IT Security best practices.