Sweden Leads the Charge Toward a Cashless Society

By Janet Hutchins on May 22, 2012 | Filed in Economy, News, Personal Finance

Many people find cash unwieldy. It’s bulky (especially coins), and it doesn’t come with good security. If someone steals your wallet, you can cancel the credit cards, and you won’t be liable for the fraudulent purchases, but the cash is gone — untraceable and never to be seen again.

The charge toward a cashless society is underway. So far, Canadians have shown an interest in being at the front of technology, including the use of credit cards and electronic forms of payment. But when it comes to moving toward a truly cashless society, Sweden is leading the charge.

Sweden Works to Make Cash Transactions a Thing of the Past

Recently, in the The Atlantic, a story about Sweden’s efforts to encourage cashless transactions was published. In Sweden, according to the article, most forms of public transportation won’t accept cash. You can pre-pay for a ticket, or pay via cell phone text message. But you can’t use coins. Just about everyone is getting in on the cashless act, according to The Atlantic:

Even houses of worship are becoming increasingly friendly to cash-free transactions: At the Carl Gustaf Church in Karlshamn, southern Sweden, Vicar Johan Tyrberg recently installed a card reader to allow worshipers to tithe in digital form.

When you no longer drop a couple bills into the collection plate, you know cash is on the way out. Digital wallets are being introduced by a number of companies, and PayPal is even introducing the ability to use an account at the registers of offline retailers. That’s right: At some stores in the United States you can use a credit card terminal to pay via PayPal — no card required.

Advantages of a Cashless Society

Some of the advantages associated with a cashless society include:

  • Convenience: It’s much easier to pay with a cell phone. Even for those who are wary of using cell phones for payment, it’s still more convenient to use your Canadian credit card to make purchases. Cash is bulky and takes up much more space.
  • Security: Once your cash is stolen, it’s gone. However, you aren’t held responsible for money spent on a stolen credit card. You can cancel credit cards, but the cash is gone.
  • Reduced crime rate: According to the article from The Atlantic, a cashless society might reduce crime. Fewer bank robberies have occurred, claims Swedish bankers. Additionally, there is speculation that muggings could decrease. When you don’t have cash, and cards can just be canceled, there isn’t much point.
  • Ease of transactions: As technology advances, it will be easier to send and receive money. There are already ways to divide restaurant bills among friends, and other financial apps that can increase the ease of transactions, whether you are settling a bet or paying a bill.

There are some downsides, though. One of those is privacy. Concerns about how easy it is to track purchases made in this way are rising. How could your purchases affect various aspects of your finances and credit? A cashless society must also be balanced with privacy protections, and the ability for consumers to donate to charity, make purchases, and perform other transactions without worrying about who’s looking over their shoulders.

What do you think? Is a cashless society inevitable?