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Contactless payments boom in 2021, heading for $1.6trn by 2024 – and have lifted sales for The Big Issue

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Contactless payments are booming worldwide, with more growth to come. And charity newspaper The Big Issue knows only too well how important they are, seeing contactless and QR payments lift sales by 30%.

According to data from, contactless payments are expected to continue rising worldwide and hit a $665bn transaction value in 2021. The impressive growth is set to continue in the following years, with the total value of contactless transactions doubling up and reaching over $1.6trn by 2024.

And here in the UK, The Big Issue newspaper has seen a dramatic 30% rise in sales after arming its vendors with contactless terminals.

Contactless payments are a quick, secure, and easy way to purchase products or services by simply holding a card or smartphone up to a payment reader for the transaction to proceed. These tap-and-go payments became especially appealing to consumers amid the pandemic, allowing them to pay for goods and services without the need to swipe, enter a personal identification number, or sign for a transaction. Consumers can also make contactless payments by connecting their credit cards with a payment app like Apple Pay or Google Pay on their smartphone or smartwatch.

Last year, the global contactless payments market was worth $482.7bn, revealed the Statista and Juniper Research data. As the number of people choosing tap-and-go payments continues rising, this figure is expected to jump by another 40% in 2021. Statistics show the following years are set to witness a surge in contactless payments, with their value rising by another $1 trillion by 2024.

China and the Far East is the leading region for this type of transactions, generating more than half of all contactless payments globally. In 2021, countries from the region are expected to generate $313.3bn worth of transactions, 38% more than a year ago. By 2024, this figure is forecast to surge by 170% and hit an $849.1bn value.

The Big Issue goes large

The Big Issue Group (TBIG) now has more than a third (594) of its vendor network equipped with contactless technology, arming them with Zettle card readers. TBIG has also announced that vendors can now offer PayPal QR Code payments to their customers, ensuring that they can respond to the need for touch-free, digital payments given our new norm during this global pandemic. 

The achievements coincide with the launch of a new, special edition on The Big Issue looking at the ‘Future of Work’, which details the success of the collaboration with PayPal, and its Zettle card reader, and the wider impact of the pandemic on ways of working.

The publisher has found that a vendor offering cashless payments will sell up to 30% more magazines using the Zettle card reader, than a vendor that is only accepting cash. Before March 2020, 193 Big Issue vendors were offering cashless payments. That number is now 594 and rising, resulting in a 208% increase YoY. 

During lockdown The Big Issue helped 636 vendors get set up with smartphones to help them get cashless-ready, taking the number of vendors with smartphones from 515 to 1,150. Between last July and last month, TBIG helped 1,023 vendors set up bank accounts so they can process Zettle payments. 

TBIG has worked in collaboration with Zettle since 2018 to ensure Big Issue vendors, some of society’s most vulnerable people, are financially included and have access to the tools they need to thrive in an increasingly digital world.

To meet shift in consumer behaviour and respond to the impact of the pandemic, the organisation rapidly accelerated the drive to rollout contactless payment technology to as many vendors as possible to help increase sales out of lockdown, given social distancing being in place and customers being less likely to carry cash.

In 2020, PayPal launched a new QR code feature which is now integrated into the Zettle point-of-sale app. The latest move means, as well as tapping a card to buy a magazine, customers can scan the PayPal QR Code on a vendor’s phone and pay for the magazine out of their PayPal account within seconds.

Dave, 59, normally sells the magazine on his pitch at Tesco, Brook Green, Hammersmith and was one of the earliest vendors to go cashless, so was aware of the benefits of offering contactless sales even before the pandemic. 

“The Big Issue helped me out, setting up my bank account and I signed up with Zettle. And it definitely helped my sales,” he says. “And because of the pandemic, card sales increased a lot. I call it ‘Covid reasons’ – people shop less regular, they shop online, or are just afraid to come out. You get a lot of people who don’t engage any more, withdraw into themselves. People don’t use cash these days, and they are often in a rush – if they know they can pay cashless they know it’s going to be quick and it’s going to be secure as well.”

Beth Thomas, The Big Issue’s Head of Partnerships and Programmes, adds: “The pandemic has only accelerated the need for vendors to accept cashless payments and we began a lot of this work with some vendors whilst still in lockdown. For us at The Big Issue, financial and digital inclusion is so important as it enables vendors to access the same services and products as everyone else, regardless of their personal circumstances. Our partnership with Zettle and PayPal has enabled us to work with our vendors to help them to manage their finances confidently, using technology to enhance this experience and ensure they get the best access to services and the best value of products.”

Jacob de Geer, Vice President, Small Business Products and Zettle, at PayPal, says: “We’ve been a proud supporter of The Big Issue for years and with the impact of the pandemic on small businesses, our joint commitment to creating a more financially inclusive society has never been more important. As the UK is opening back up, it is incredible to see the positive results for vendors using our technology. We’re dedicated to continuously innovate and create products to ensure sellers have the tools needed to meet the ever-evolving consumer demands.”  

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