Cashless society is something we’ve been hearing about for many years now. This is the promise that, as technology improves, there will be less and less need for physical cash.
It’s now starting to become a reality. We’ve taken a look at how close we are to becoming a cashless society, and the role technologies like self-service kiosks are playing – along with the problems that going cash-free might cause.
Sweden goes nearly cashless
Sweden has long been one of the most tech-savvy countries in the world (this is the home of Spotify, after all). And it could soon become the first country to go fully cashless.
The amount of cash in circulation in the country dropped by 15% from 2007 to 2015, and cash payments dropped from 39% to 20% in the five years from 2010 to 2015. Only 2% of the value of all payments in Sweden were in cash in 2015.
Why is Sweden leading the way?
- It’s an innovative, high-tech society
- Most of the population have bank accounts
- Most people own smartphones, and they don’t mind using them to make payments
- Physical cash costs banks money, so they’re pushing cashless payments
Contactless cards and self-service kliosks
One of the big drivers in Sweden and other countries is the rise of contactless payments. Now you can use contactless for most things – even on the London Underground instead of using an Oyster card.
Contactless is faster and easier, and many smartphones have the same technology built into them so that people can make payments without even carrying a wallet.
Self-service kiosks also have a big role to play. They work together with contactless payments to make the whole experience of buying something much easier and faster. Whether buying something in a store or choosing your meal in a fast-food restaurant, kiosks are changing the shopping experience.
As this goes from being a novelty to the norm, more and more people will embrace the technology. But does that mean that we will ever truly be a cashless society?
The problems with going 100% cashless
While many people are quick to highlight the benefits of a cashless society, there are potential problems it could lead to.
Yes, it’s more convenient, it’s safer than carrying cash and it makes it harder to operate in the black market.
But on the downside, it also means that stores will know everything about shoppers.
Corporations will have more access to your data, and this raises privacy concerns for many people.
Elderly people may also be less comfortable with the technology. According to data from the Office for National Statistics, in the first quarter of 2017 only 41% of people aged over 75 had recently used the internet, and many still use cash and cheques. For them, a cashless society could bring challenges.
Contactless can also make it harder to track your payments. When you cannot easily see how much you are spending, it can be easier to spend more.
Perhaps the biggest issue is that some people still don’t have bank accounts – about 1.5 million adults in the UK. These people rely on cash, and a cashless society would exclude them.
A cashless society – for some
While it is unlikely that the UK – or any other country – will go fully cashless anytime soon, it’s certainly the way things are moving. And for some people, especially young people, it might as well be a cashless society. The technology now in place allows you to do almost anything without cash.
But while many people will opt to live a cashless lifestyle through the use of self-service kiosks and contactless payments, don’t expect to say goodbye to cash just yet.