17 Jun Will the U.S. Become a Cashless Society?
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When a member of our staff visited Sweden last year, she was surprised to have used so little of the Swedish krona she had exchanged from her bank before she left for her trip. According to Sweden. SE, (the country’s official website) about 80% of Swedes use a card to pay for purchases. Digital payments via card or apps are so widely accepted that many Swedes no longer carry cash. Even children pay with debit cards. In fact, the largest coffee house chain in the country, Espresso House, won’t accept any cash payments.
Other countries around the world also leading the way to a cashless society are Finland, China, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Will the COVID-19 pandemic push the U.S. towards a more cashless society?
As the country starts to reopen for business, more merchants are asking their customers to pay for their purchases with a credit/debit card over cash to reduce touch contact. Certainly there are many benefits of moving towards a cashless society:
- Cash is dirty. Reports show paper bills can carry more germs than a bathroom floor or toilet. This may be due that on average a one or five dollar bill changes hands 110 times per year. While the research is continuing to evolve, the coronavirus may live on paper money up to 4 days. In the early days of the pandemic, Chinese banks were ordered to disinfect cash before issuing it to the public in an effort to spread the curb of the disease. On the other hand, reports indicate the coronavirus can live on a credit card for up to 5 days. Either way, the chance of contacting the virus from the use of cash or a credit/debit card remains low, however, both consumers and merchants perceive paying by a card as safer.
- Contactless payments. Contactless payment systems (also called tap and pay) are credit/debit cards, key fobs, smart cards, smartphones and other mobile devices, such as an Apple Watch that use radio-frequency identification or near field communication for making secure payments. To pay for an item, you simply hold the card near a payment terminal which will then pick up a signal from the card and process the payment.
- Convenience. Using a card for every purchase is a lot easier than fumbling in a wallet or purse for rolled up dollars and coins.
- Safety. Going cashless makes you less likely to be the victim of theft or a crime such as inadvertently passing on counterfeit or laundered bills.
There are some downsides to a cashless society including:
- Exposure of your personal accounts to financial cyber attacks and digital crime;
- Payment systems from financial companies breached by hackers;
- Unauthorized transfers of electronic funds or unauthorized purchases from your accounts;
- It may be more difficult to control spending if all purchases are made using a card.
Whether you go cashless or not, the best way to stay healthy and avoid the coronavirus is to continue to wash your hands, wear a mask, maintain social distance, and avoid large gatherings.