As the cost of living rises, and the spending limit for contactless card payments is set to change to £100, Robyn Wright from Christians Against Poverty urges us not to get sucked into the trap of spending without thinking
Food and energy costs are on the rise, with some facing a substantial cut to Universal Credit this autumn*. During a time when the overall cost of living is set to rise, the spending limit for contactless card payments will also rise – to £100 from 15 October 2021. This new limit may feel like a welcome gift, but is it a wolf in disguise that may lead to overspending?
I was chatting with my friend at Starbucks the other week. We ordered our coffee, got to the till and almost without looking she said: “I’ll get this” and pressed her watch against the scanner.
£8 for two fancy coffees in two seconds; I didn’t even have time to be shocked at how much we were spending before it was spent.
In the finance industry this is called painless or frictionless spending. The idea of removing friction is about disconnecting our usual neurological associations with spending, so that we spend more. Contactless uses the same theory, disconnecting us from our purchases. As customers, it also improves our experience, making it slick and quick, but at what cost?
The national roll-out of the new higher £100 spending limit for contactless card payments will begin from 15 October 2021 and you need to be ready. This is a substantial rise from the original £30 limit, which was increased to £45 in April 2020, during the pandemic.
The number of consecutive transactions before consumers are required to provide their PIN will remain at five, but the cumulative transaction limit (how much you can spend across those five payments), will be raised to £300, increasing from £130.
Besides potentially incentivising bag snatching and fraud, contactless cards make it quick and easy to overspend.
Curb your spending
At a time when we all need to reconsider our spending due to increases in the cost of living (especially essential services), how can we ensure we do not fall into overspending?
The secret to healthier finances is budgeting; knowing what your money is earmarked for and then creating a system that helps you to stick with it. In the past it was easy to use cash as a visual aid to control spending, but with the rise in use of cards, we have a bit more work to do.
The theory remains the same; create a budget. It can be difficult to know where to start, especially when we are faced with unexpected changes to our bills, or stresses on our finances, but the three steps below will help you move forward.
Keeping on top of your finances
1. List all your monthly income (eg fixed salary, social security payments, rent from a lodger).
2. List all your expenditures (eg bills, rent/mortgage, Council Tax, travel, children, pets, healthcare).
If you struggle to do this, keep a diary for a week to track your spending. Check your bank statements and receipts.
3. Consider your savings
What do you need to save for in the short and long term?
Consider things you know are coming up, such as birthdays and Christmas as well as bigger goals such as holidays, houses or weddings.
Consider unexpected costs, such as your boiler or car breaking or an unexpected fine.
If your budget does not balance, consider your wants versus your needs. Are there any areas where you can cut back, cut costs or cut out? For example, with buying coffee; cutting back might mean having two a week instead of three, cutting costs might mean finding a cheaper café or brand, and cutting out might be taking a coffee from home instead. If you continue to struggle after trying these tips, you might like to try using cash to give you that visual aid.
If you cannot afford to buy essentials, you may need further help – please know that you are not alone. To help organise your budget further consider attending a CAP Money Course. Or if you or someone you know needs help with debt, contact CAP on 0800 328006 or visit capuk.org/debthelp. A full list of free debt advice services in the UK can also be found on the UK Government’s Money Helper website.
When the contactless limit rises, just remember: the limit is higher but the money we have is exactly the same! If you think this change is likely to increase your spending, take action today.
*Along with Christians Against Poverty and Church Action on Poverty, over 1,100 church leaders have this week signed a letter to the government, urging them not to cut the Universal Credit income by £1,040 a year.