Business

Virtual High Street 'is growing'

Computer keyboard
Image caption Online shopping has become more popular as internet access has grown

Consumers are increasingly shopping on a "virtual High Street" with cards rather than cash, industry figures have suggested.

The value of debit card purchases in 2010 outstripped cash payments, the UK Payments Council has confirmed.

There was £288bn spent on debit cards during the year - an annual growth rate of 9.4% - compared with £266bn in cash.

Internet shopping for Christmas presents was marked by accelerating card spending in November, it said.

"The internet has really changed the way we shop at Christmas, with many of us choosing to shop online to get the best deals and to avoid the shops at the busiest time of year," said Payments Council spokeswoman Sandra Quinn.

"That is why there is a distinct shift in spending towards November. This has only been possible with the vast expansion of card usage in the UK.

"Even the looming increase in VAT which flattered December's spending was not enough to mask the rise of November.

"The problems of dispatching Christmas goods through the heavy December snows last Christmas mean this year, people are likely to get even more organised and get their orders in online early."

Meanwhile, there were 1.1 billion cheque transactions made in 2010, a fall of 13% compared with the previous year.

The Payments Council has decided that this payment system should come to an end, by setting a date of 31 October 2018 for the abolition of the system that processes cheques.

However, this would only occur if adequate alternative payments to cheques were found, it said.

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