Card use is continuing to rise as the ongoing coronavirus crisis prompts growing numbers of consumers to shop online and avoid using cash. According to figures released by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) from its latest Payment Survey, card use rose from representing 54% of transactions in 2016 to 61% by May of this year.

But while this shows an upward trend, the survey also highlights just how much retailers are having to pay in order to accommodate the growing card payment culture. BRC data shows that retailers paid £1.1 billion to process payments in 2019, with £950 million of that coming from card transactions alone.

Card payments might now account for £4 in every £5 spent in retail, but charges for the retailers themselves cost on average 18.4p per credit card transaction. Costs have risen too, with processing charges up 15% compared to 2016. Debit card transaction costs have also increased, costing 5.9p for every transaction, which is a 6% rise since 2016.

Businesses are already struggling in the current economic climate with both coronavirus and Brexit challenges to deal with. However, the report reveals that businesses have received notices over the past year that new fees are in the way in relation to processing fees for payments online

The BRC says that these costs will equate to £40 per household and ultimately result in higher prices for those who shop online.

Card processing costs

As a result, the British Retail Consortium, British Independent Retailers Association, Association of Convenience Stores, Federation of Small Business and UKHospitality are pushing for action to tackle the rising costs involved in processing card transactions. The release of the survey data coincides series of reviews that have been carried out by the government and the UK’s Payment System Regulator. A resulting Treasury consultation on the payments landscape in the UK closes today.

Andrew Cregan, Head of Finance Policy, British Retail Consortium said: “With card payments accounting for almost 80% of retail sales, it is vital that the Government takes action to tackle excessive card costs. Without action we will see businesses put under further pressure and it will be consumers who are forced to pay the price.”

James Lowman, Chief Executive, Association of Convenience Stores said: “The way that customers pay in convenience stores is continuing to diversify and the costs that must be met by retailers to provide these options are rising. Recent years have seen the financing of ATMs undermined, causing many machines to become fee-charging regardless of retailer preferences, and some parts of card fees double for retailers.

There are two priorities for retailers here: everyone would benefit from a restored national network supplying access to cash, and action is needed to allow retailers to effectively find the best deal and switch card payments providers.” 

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