The UK is speeding up its road to a cashless economy, with card payments set to become more popular than paper next year.

Following in the footsteps of Scandinavian economies, the UK, where cash still accounts for the majority of transactions, will see contactless payments reverse the stakes in 2018.

Data from Payments UK published by national newspaper The Telegraph shows 11.6 bln card payments for 2016 versus 15.4 bln cash transactions.

Next year, only 13.3 bln cash transactions are forecast, meaning card payments will top the list of preferred options among UK consumers.

"The popularity of contactless means that we expect debit cards to overtake cash as the UK's most frequently used payment method in late 2018, three years earlier than we previously thought,” Payments UK Chief Economist Adrian Buckle told the publication.

He added, however, that the idea the UK would soon become a cashless society similar to Sweden, for example, were “wide of the mark.”

Europe has a highly varied landscape when it comes to consumer payments. Germany, for instance, is still a majority cash society.

Beyond Europe, however, the cashless drive has increased in recent years, with India and Australia both indicating their wish to eradicate as much of the cash sector as possible.

Such policies have drawn concern from parties concerned about privacy, with India’s plans countered by commentators stating Bitcoin could one day be used for smaller transactions instead of cash.