Plastic taking over from paper

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Paying with plastic has become so popular that spending on credit and debit cards is likely to exceed pounds 100bn this year. Only 10 years after they were first launched, payment by debit cards accounts for almost a fifth of retail spending.

Figures from the Credit Card Research Group showed that card spending amounted to pounds 46bn in the first half of the year and is growing at an annual rate of 19 per cent. "These figures show credit and debit cards taking an ever larger slice," said spokesman Peter Welch.

The acceptance of debit cards is now spreading particularly fast in repair shops, opticians and amongst tradespeople such as electricians and plumbers. In other areas their acceptance has started to reach a plateau.