Mobile & Online Payments

Give the public what they want – a cashless society

Written by Dave Birch

A new survey reveals that 34% of people would go completely cashless if given the choice. Dave Birch considers a cashless future.

Gin bar accepts contactless card payments. Photo by Dave Birch

Gin and contactless is my second favourite cocktail (after the Moscow Mule).

Well, this is interesting. On the very day of Consult Hyperion’s 20th (yes, 20th) annual Tomorrow’s Transactions Forum to discuss the future of secure electronic transactions (and much besides), what should fall through the internet tubes but the fifth annual ‘ING International Survey Mobile Banking 2017 – Cashless Society‘. It surveyed nearly 15,000 people across 15 countries and found that one in five (21%) people in Europe now rarely carries physical notes and coins, and a third (34%) would go completely cashless if given the choice.

Like those 34%, I’d like to be given the choice, but there are still places that won’t accept cards (such as the Real Ale bar in Wembley Stadium), which is why I went to the gin bar instead (as shown above). But these are becoming fewer and farther between, and not only in London.

“Dr Michael Collins, assistant professor of social policy at the University College of Dublin, tried to live without cash during one month to see if Ireland could become cashless in a near future, and follow the example of its Scandinavian neighbour. His investigation demonstrated that almost all transactions can be done without banknotes and coins, except for some small-value transactions, such as a coffee in a train.”

Ha! Even on Southwest Trains, you can pay using contactless cards or Apple Pay, and when the new Chinese owners take over later this year, I imagine that Alipay and WeChat will be on the menu, too. When do we get to wave goodbye to cash in Woking, then? Well, sadly no time soon because while the trains have contactless, the ticket machines don’t (and I shouldn’t have to go to ticket machines anyway, but that’s a different point). But in 10 years? 20 years?

Gala Casino used linear regression on cash usage data from 2004 to 2014, which saw a drop from 71% to 53%, and Payments UK predictions for 2024, to arrive at its guesstimate that 2043 will be the year in which the number of cash transactions reaches zero per cent.”

National policy

I would imagine the graph turns out to be show cash asymptotic to zero rather than zero, but while I’m not sure that the number of “cash” transactions will ever reach zero, because some people will always want to use some form of immediate and anonymous payment system, I’m sure (as I told the BBC’s Wake Up to Money chap when he called to invite me on this morning) that William Gibson’s words in Count Zero are prescient: “He had his cash money, but you couldn’t pay for food with that. It wasn’t actually illegal to have the stuff, it was just that nobody ever did anything legitimate with it.” By 2043? Sure. But rather than just let it happen, we really need to set a national policy about it.

Reducing cash doesn’t mean big savings, but removing cash does, and without an actual national policy on this, the benefits will go to the middle classes at the expense of the poor.”

Therefore another vision for 2043 might be that cash becomes a class issue, where the middle classes never see cash from one week’s end to the next (except for the purpose of aiding and abetting tax evasion by paying the builder in £50s) but the underclass, trapped in cash, are excluded from the world of bank accounts and cards.

READ NEXT: Sweden going cashless

– This article is reproduced with kind permission. Some minor changes have been made to reflect BankNXT style considerations. The original title for the article was ‘Give the public what they want’. Read more here. Photo by ZoranOrcik, Shutterstock.com

About the author

Dave Birch

David GW Birch is director of Consult Hyperion, a secure electronic transactions consultancy, responsible for maintaining and projecting Consult Hyperion's thought leadership in this field. He is an internationally recognised thought leader in digital identity and digital money, and was named one of the global top 15 favourite sources of business information by Wired.

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