131 million online and mobile payments were made in 2021, up 85% on 2016 levels.

New figures from Banking and Payments Federation Ireland confirm that digital payments are continuing to rise rapidly, as consumers further reduce their reliance on cash and cheques.

The number of digital payments made last year increased by over 10% compared to 2020, while the number of cheques issued reached a new low.

Just 20 million payments were made via cheques last year, down almost 15% on 2020.

Direct debits, which are mainly used to pay bills grew by 0.7% to 139 million last year.

The figures also reveal that card spending reached a new high last year, with contactless payments accounting for more than half of all payments.

Back in 2017, contactless payments made up just a quarter of all payments.

In value terms, about 53% of card spending was in store, down from 61% in 2019.

According to the report, 834 million contactless payments were made last year, worth €13.6 billion.

In volume terms, that is up over 36% on the previous year, while the value is up over 48%.

Last December there were 2.99 million contactless payments valued at €53.8 million per day, up from 2.1 million payments valued at €36.5 million a year earlier.

In total almost €70.7 billion was spent on cards in 2021, up from about €57.2 billion in 2019, according to Central Bank of Ireland data.

By contrast, cash withdrawn at ATMs fell from a peak of €19.9 billion in 2018 to €12.7 billion in 2021.

"Our latest payments figures which allow us to assess 2021 as a whole, very clearly demonstrate the continued momentum driving the use of digital banking as well as contactless payments and card spend more generally," said Brian Hayes, Chief Executive of BPFI.

"In just five years we have seen an unprecedented jump of 85% in online and mobile banking payments as consumers continue to adopt to digital channels and move away from paper-based payments," he added.

Mr Hayes said he expects the payment trends that emerged throughout the pandemic to continue.

"With the majority of Covid-19 restrictions now removed we expect these changes in consumer behaviour, that were accelerated during the pandemic, will likely remain and drive a long-lasting shift in the use of digital channels and electronic payments."