A Cashless Society: Could We Do It?
In many areas of our lives, what was fiction is now fact, so is a cashless society really so crazy? We tend to favour convenience, and with advanced payment technologies such as PayWave, Smart Pay and chipping, buying a cup of coffee has never been easier. Cash is easier to lose, harder to manage and is often annoying to carry around. This has led to the rise in popularity for any payment method that doesn't involve tactile notes and coins. But despite the hassle, is cash really becoming irrelevant?
Is Cash Redundant?
Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff may think so. Ethan Epstein, a journalist for the Banking Journal said, "Rogoff thinks that culling most paper U.S. dollars in circulation would make it harder for criminals to operate, reduce tax evasion and furnish the government with a greater ability to juice the economy by introducing negative interest rates."
Visa is also in favour of eradicating cash. In July, they launched the Cashless Challenge programme, which offered a cash incentive to 50 U.S. food service owners. Each business received $10,000 to help upgrade payment technologies, under the condition that they commit to being cashless. Visa would benefit by receiving billions of dollars in the extra transaction fees a cashless environment would generate.
Retailers in particular are finding cash expensive to handle, and there is a concern about the threat of robbers and theft by employees. In Seattle, Amazon has taken payment technology to the next level by introducing a payless system. The items in their store are chipped, and customers are able to check into the store using an app. A 3D scanner above the doorway checks the shopper's identity against a database, scans the chips in each item to track it, and debits the shopper's account if they walk out with the item.
While this payless system, or 'virtual checkout' system is currently only available in the Amazon store in Seattle, there are plenty of other payment technologies people prefer over cash. Payment methods such as PayWave and Smart Pay were considered outrageous when first unveiled, but now they are the norm. It seems that with efforts being made to make the transaction exchange even faster, soon even those technologies that were once new will have to sit out on the bench.
A ‘Less-Cash’ Society?
It's undeniable. Cash is becoming less popular. However, many people believe our society will become 'less-cash' rather than cashless. For better or for worse, physical cash has been a part of human civilization for a long time, and old habits die hard. It’s unlikely we will see the end of coins and notes anytime soon. But the trend lines are heading in that direction.