The economic contribution of card payments to the UK

February 12, 2024

Commissioned by Mastercard, research from EY illustrates the scale at which card payments facilitate economic transactions in the U.K.

Card payments have been a part of British society for over 50 years, with the introduction of credit cards in 1966, and debit cards in 1987. Since that time, they have grown into the main payment method (57% of consumer spending) in the UK economy, facilitating spending both physically and online.

With card penetration in the UK representing 57% of transactions, this report suggests that card payments facilitated an estimated 6.5% of GDP in 2022, or up to £161bn of UK GDP - the equivalent of around 2.1 million jobs.

In other terms, the GDP facilitated by card payments in the U.K in 2022 was equivalent in scale to the number of people employed in the financial, insurance and real estate sectors combined.

Card payments allow consumers to spend safely and more easily, as well as giving them better visibility over their personal finances. Small businesses can take payments with less friction, whilst contactless payments allow more spontaneous small-scale transactions, all of which contribute to economic growth.

Peter Arnold, EY UK Chief Economist, said: “The extensive use of card payments in the UK has driven a rise in both consumer and business activity, and this has generated substantial economic benefits, bolstering UK GDP, job opportunities and tax revenues. Moreover, the ongoing evolution of card technology and infrastructure has stimulated innovation across UK business, notably in the fintech sector, as insights derived from payments data power further developments. In short, the UK’s continued leadership in the adoption of card payments has fostered growth and helped to nurture an ecosystem that can fuel economic momentum in the future.”