The British are biggest users of contactless payment tech

Contactless payment cards have been used more than a billion times in Europe in the past 12 months, the media reported on Monday.

Total contactless spending over the year came in at €12.6bn (£9bn), The Telegraph said in a report, citing data from Visa Europe.

Out of that figure, €1.6bn (£1.14bn) happened in March alone. This is three times higher than the amount spent in March 2014.

UK customers are leading the European contactless payment charge, the report says, with British shoppers spending €330m (£234m) in March across 52.6m transactions using contactless payments.

"The popularity of contactless will only increase in future as we experience the next generation of digital payments, where the simplicity and convenience is extended to mobile and wearable near field communications technology," Visa Europe's Sandra Alzetta was quoted as saying.

"We're proud to have led the way in establishing contactless payments in Europe, and excited to be at the forefront as contactless payments become increasingly available to everyone."

Contactless payment has worked wonders in the transport industry. In March, Transport for London (TfL) said it was the fastest growing contactless Visa merchant in Europe, six months after it was launched on buses, tubes and trains.

TfL said the number of contactless transactions in a day hit the one million mark on 13 March, with over 14 per cent of all pay-as-you-go journeys made through the technology.

The contactless payment works using the Near-field communication (NFC) technology, which allows the shopper to pay by touching their card on the payment terminal.

UPDATE: Anthony Duffy, Director of Retail Banking in UK & Ireland at Fujitsu commented: "The news that Britain leads Europe in the use of contactless payment cards is welcome, but no great surprise. The banking and payments industry have carefully planned the roll-out and deployment of this technology to ensure long-term consumer uptake and use.

"Central to this strategy is the inclusion of mass transit systems, such as the London Underground, which provide ideal vehicles for introducing new, low value payment to a large audience. Attracting such organisations introduces large numbers of potential users to the payment option as well as offering the possibility of large transaction numbers being rapidly built.

"The next phase in the development of contactless technology lies in growing both transaction volumes and values. In part, this will happen naturally, as user familiarity and confidence with the system grows, but it will also grow as the ceiling on payment values is raised.

"Perhaps the most significant impetus for growth will come from the payment option being 'stretched' from plastic cards to mobile wallets and wearable technologies, which will further increase awareness of the payment option amongst existing and new users."