Debit Card Spending Reaches Record High in July as Pandemic Accelerates Growth in Online Shopping

  • E-Commerce
  • 16.10.2020 05:43 pm

Debit card spending in the UK reached a record high of £59.1 billion in July, data published by UK Finance has revealed. This is up almost a fifth (17.9 per cent) compared to the previous month and an increase of 9.4 per cent compared to July last year. Credit card spending in July amounted to £15 billion, an increase of 15 per cent compared to the previous month, but 24.8 per cent below levels seen last year.

The figures suggest that consumers may be choosing to make purchases using their debit card rather than their credit card amid ongoing economic uncertainty. Consumers are also likely to be making fewer high-value purchases that are typically made using credit cards to benefit from additional protections, for example for flights, holidays abroad and white goods. In addition, the increase in debit card spending may have been driven by retailers encouraging customers to pay by card or contactless payments where possible.

Online card spending also reached a record high of £21.8 billion in July, suggesting the pandemic has accelerated the ongoing shift towards consumers shopping for goods and services online. 41 per cent of total card spending by value took place online during the month. This is up from 30 per cent in February, but down from a high of 46 per cent in April when opportunities to spend in physical retail stores were more limited as a result of lockdown restrictions.

The data indicates that consumers have continued to make use of the higher £45 contactless limit introduced by the banking and finance industry earlier this year. Contactless card spending amounted to £8 billion in July, up 22.5 per cent from the previous month and an 11.1 per cent increase compared to last year. The average value of a contactless payment reached £12.08 in July, compared to £9.42 in February. This suggests consumers are using contactless payments for higher-value transactions in the retail and hospitality sector. At the same time, there are likely to have been fewer low-value contactless transactions for public transport.

A total of 1.2 billion card transactions were made in July as lockdown restrictions continued to ease. This is an 18 per cent increase compared to June, but the figures remain 30.4 per cent below those seen in July 2019.

Of these, 662 million card transactions were made using contactless, up by 27.7 per cent compared to the previous month, but 13.5 per cent down compared to last year. Contactless payments accounted for almost six in ten debit card transactions and four in ten credit card transactions during the month.

Eric Leenders, Managing Director of Personal Finance, UK Finance, said:

“This data suggests the pandemic has accelerated the shift towards internet shopping, with card spending online reaching a record high in July.

“We are also seeing a marked increase in debit card spending, driven by the growing use of contactless as shoppers take advantage of the new £45 payment limit to make higher value transactions. Credit card spending has recovered slightly but continues to be impacted by ongoing economic uncertainty and fewer opportunities to spend on high value items such as holidays.

The banking and finance industry’s clear plan continues to support customers during this difficult time, as we work closely with the government and regulators to ensure people can pay in a way that suits them.”



  1. UK Finance is the collective voice for the banking and finance industry. Representing more than 250 firms across the industry, we act to enhance competitiveness, support customers and facilitate innovation.
  2. Full data tables are available here.
  3. The banking and finance industry has put in place a clear plan to help Britain through:
  • Two million mortgage payment deferrals
  • 27 million interest-free overdrafts offered, 1.1 million payment deferrals on credit cards and over 735,000 payment deferrals on personal loans.
  • £57.3 billion of lending to over 1.32 million businesses through government Covid-19 lending schemes
  • Protecting customers from scams and fraud
  • £45 limit for contactless payments

    4. Please note that data on UK cardholders is different to data on card activity in the UK. Data on UK cardholders refers to transactions made either inside the UK or overseas on cards issued to UK residents and reported by card issuers. Data on card activity in the UK refers to transactions made in the UK only, both on UK-issued cards and cards issued overseas, this data is provided by acquirers.

    5. A  summary of our annual UK Payment Markets 2020 Report containing detailed analysis of the use of all types of payments in the UK, can be found here:

    6. The quarterly Household Finance Review containing analysis and economic commentary on household finance in the UK, can be found here:

    7. The monthly credit card data has been re-stated back to January 2019 to increase our market coverage to 97 per cent, providing a more representative picture of the credit card market.

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