I recently read an article about Sweden, that country in northern Europe between Norway and Finland, where it gets really cold, and how they are planning on doing away with all coins and currency. Instead of using coins and currency, the citizens of Sweden are being encouraged to use an app-driven mobile payment system called Swish, which is currently the front runner of other similar app-driven systems considered.
The way it seems to work is when a purchase is made, the buyer uses a card similar to a credit card (or maybe even a smart phone app) and the money is immediately transferred from his or her bank account into the seller’s bank account. The ability to access different accounts exists and there is no minimum amount required for the transfer. However there is a cost associated with the transfer, which wasn’t revealed.
Several major banks in Sweden are now refusing to accept cash entirely and those offices that do accept bank notes and coin require the customer to declare where the money came from due to regulations that aim to prevent money laundering and funding for terrorism.
I think there is going to be a bigger chill in Sweden than the weather. The Swedish kroner (Sweden is not a member of the European Union and as such doesn’t use the Euro) is valued at around eleven cents, U.S. Several concerns are that retirees (think older citizens) have a hard time understanding and accepting this new technology; there has been a noticeable increase in cyber crimes and, most concerning, the government can monitor all transactions and if it wishes, empty a persons’ or businesses bank account with the push of a button. That thought should cause some people to have sleepless nights. Although the intent is for the entire country to move toward a cashless means of commerce, a recent survey of Swedes showed that fully two thirds of people surveyed felt it was still their right to use physical cash if they so choose.
Could this movement gain traction and possibly come to the United States? Quite honestly, we are partially there already since many customers use debit cards to make even small purchases, the excuse being it’s more convenient than cash and they don’t end up with a pocket full of change. And at the end of the month they have a record of where their money went. But, since all our currency has the statement “THIS NOTE IS LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS PUBLIC AND PRIVATE”, it would require undoing the entire financial system of our country to move toward a cashless society, something I don’t see happening.
Technology is a wonderful thing, and more and more apps are being developed to make our lives easier and less complicated (no, actually I think these are making our lived more complicated, but that’s my opinion). There is a limit to what I, and many people like me are willing to embrace, possibly since we can’t see or touch it, and this cashless approach is just such an example. I like the idea of having cash in my pocket; I know where it is and what it’s worth (even though it’s only a piece of paper with a number on it, I know I can get that value in a product that I choose to purchase and no cyber criminal can take it from me).