Contactless payment
Contactless 'tap and pay' cards have surged in popularity over the past year PA

Half of adults in Britain now carry less than £5 in cash in their purses or wallets amid a surge in popularity for online shopping and contactless card payments, new research shows.

The move comes amid a push by banks and some larger stores for people to use "tap and pay" cards rather than the more costly and cumbersome notes and coins.

Technology giants like Apple, Google and Samsung have also added to the demise of cash in recent years by allowing customers to pay for their bus fares, coffee and groceries with their smartphones and wearable technology devices.

The number of transactions made with cards has leapt by more than 9% each year since 2013, totalling 17bn transactions in the UK last year.

A survey by credit card giant Mastercard found this surge had seen 47% of adult Britons now carry less than £5 cash on them, while about two in five people (43%) say they keep less hard cash in their pockets than they did two years ago.

Just 7% of those surveyed carry more than £50 in cash on them.

"We're in the midst of a period of unprecedented change for payments," said Mark Barnett, President of Mastercard UK and Ireland. "Cash usage is being buffeted by the dual forces of increased online expenditure and consumers embracing the convenience, speed and security of card and digital payments.

"This trend is also reducing the amount of cash businesses need to handle and process, which is time consuming and an often overlooked cost."

Separate research published earlier this month by fellow credit card giant Visa found more than half (58%) of people in the UK used contactless cards this year, up from 20% in 2015.

The end of wallets and purses?

So pronounced has been the rise in contactless that Mastercard's survey found one in five people believe purses and wallets will soon become obsolete in the UK. This rises to a third among those aged 25 to 34.

The study found one in 10 people have already given up carrying a wallet or purse, instead keeping just a credit or debit card in their pocket. A further quarter (24%) say they intend to do the same in the near future.

The average wallet and purse is said to be bursting with 44 items other than cash – about half of which is collected junk like old receipts and expired coupons.

Men were found to be the worst hoarders overall, with a quarter admitting to waiting a year or more before having a wallet clear-out, compared to one in 10 women.

They are also less likely to carry large amounts of cash on them, with 54% keeping less than £5 in their wallet, compared to 39% of women.

The average wallet/purse in Britain contains:

  • 2 x debit/credit cards
  • Less than £5 in cash
  • 1 x driving licence
  • 2 x membership cards
  • 2 x entry/pass cards
  • 2 x travel cards/tickets
  • 4 x loyalty cards
  • 3 x money off coupons
  • 3 x business cards
  • 2 x photographs
  • 2 x keepsakes/lucky charms
  • 4 x old receipts
  • 2 x expired coupons
  • 2 x useless handwritten notes
  • 3 x expired or unused membership/certification/identity cards
  • 6 x pieces of unneeded foreign currency
  • 2 x business cards of people never contacted
  • 2 x expired travel tickets