At first a world without cash sounds impossible. You might picture an extreme, sci-fi scenario where we all have electronic bank chips inserted into us, and the question ‘how much money do you have on ye?’ takes on a whole new, far too literal meaning.
But for most of us, financial dealings that don’t involve cash are becoming the norm. Most of our major purchases are done on the internet. We pay each other back using on-line banking and use contactless cards for small payments. We travel abroad without worrying about getting the correct currency beforehand, content that our money is in our accounts and on our phones. There’s no doubt than when it comes to a world without cash, the technology to do it and the convenience to warrant it are there; and with studies showing that by 2020 six billion people in the world will have a smartphone, so is the widespread accessibility to make it feasible.
For many people, the instant negative with the idea is that without cash all our payments are recorded. Abolishment of cash would help cut down on black markets and make tax more enforceable, but for abiding citizens it would also be an intrusion on personal privacy. In an ever controlling society, cash is one of the last refuges of freedom. A cashless world forces people into relationship with banks, and not only are all electronic payments taxable, they’re traceable too. It’s possible that electronic payments give more control to banks and governments and less to us as individuals.
Having a certain budget for a night out of a shopping trip, and having that budget in the literal form of notes in your pocket, can mean you're much thriftier with your money.
There are other negatives too. Even though our growing inclination at a checkout-till is to produce a card rather than cash, there are still certain benefits to the latter. It’s always tempting to spend money if we have it in our pockets, but with cash at least we know exactly what we’re spending. Having our money out of sight in the bank might make us less tempted to spend it, but it also makes us less aware of our spending when we do use it. The rise in on-line gambling and the problems that this has caused for many has already shown that money, when not in the form of physical cash, can quickly slip away. Having a certain budget for a night out or a shopping trip, and having that budget in the literal form of notes in your pocket, can mean you’re much thriftier with your money.
The benefits of cash don’t stop at the consumer either. Local businesses rely on it. For Independent Café’s and corner shops cash is best; they are the ones that receive the loose change in our pockets, the fiver we didn’t know we had in our wallet or purse. For the customer too there is an extra satisfaction in paying them in cash; in knowing that the money is going into their hand, or the tip is going straight into the staff members pocket, not being lost to the bigger business world.
Recent studies in Sweden show that four in five transactions are cashless, right down to the smallest purchases.
Yet despite these supposed negative sides to the argument, we continue to move further away from cash transactions in our lives. It is a worldwide topic. Recent studies in Sweden show that four in five transactions are cashless, right down to the smallest purchases. Cash circulation in the country has nearly halved in six years. Thoughts around money are changing in Japan too, where banks have introduced negative interest, meaning that it costs people money to store their finances in banks, in the hope that people will spend and invest more of their money, therefore help develop the economy.
It is a subject that is likely to cause debate in the future, and will rarely lead to settled opinions. The negative affects of a cashless world haven’t stopped us coming this far, and there’s scope for further movement away from notes and coins, but whether we will ever go the full way and become a cashless country is hard to predict.
It will be a tricky decision to make. Anyone have a coin we could flip?