While the UK argues, debates, and amuses itself over the new £10 notes and the replacement of £1 coins, Sweden is going in another direction entirely. It was recently revealed that the country had the lowest number and value of cash transactions anywhere in the world in 2016. Less than 1% of transactions in Sweden now involve cash compared to 7% across the EU and the USA. Increasingly, coffee shops, eateries, and other outlets in Sweden are installing signs in the windows saying that they don’t accept cash transactions. So, will Sweden soon be cashless?
The Swedish Cashless Society is Almost Here
Cashless is not just for the larger transactions – for which cash is seen as a safety risk and an inconvenience. 2016 saw chain stores and other hardware outlets trade in just 20% of transactions made with cash. It might not seem that low, but the most surprising change of all is that just five years previously, the figure was around 40%.
Public transport made the change a few years ago on grounds of safety for drivers and now you can’t take a bus in Sweden’s major cities without having a card to pay for the journey. Safety is a major motivator for those moving away from cash, with homeless people selling charity magazines (much like The Big Issue) taking card payments, along with market stall traders. Due to advanced technology, no minimum spend is required for card transactions.
Cashless doesn’t just mean card payments. Although still in its early stages in the UK, Sweden has taken to mobile payment like ducks to water. The market leader is presently called Swish. It’s supported by all major banks and allows any customer to send payments to anyone just using their mobile phone number and a secure checking system. Curiously, despite this change, around 2/3 of Swedes do not want to abolish physical cash completely.
The Benefits of a Cashless Society
It’s looking increasingly likely that most forms of retail in Sweden will have phased out cash payments completely by 2030, even if coins and notes will not necessarily be abandoned. There are several considerable advantages to the change.
Speed and convenience: Paying by card is fast for customers. Nobody has to count out coins or notes then wait for change and check it when all payments are made by card. Especially now we have contactless payments.
Reduces the chance of robbery: For small eateries, bakeries, and coffee shops that might otherwise carry a lot of cash but have little to no security, there is a much lower chance of being robbed and the safety of employees being put at risk. As mentioned above, bus drivers, homeless people, and market traders all benefit from the switch to card transactions.
Money security: Muggings are not as common as they once were, but should the unfortunate happen any cash taken from your person is gone forever. If a credit or debit card is taken it can be stopped and replaced and any money taken from it returned under the protection rights you have.
Drawbacks of Cashless Society
Of course, there are drawbacks to using cards and mobile phones, few things are risk-free.
Identity theft: Opponents point to the greater opportunity of losing personal details and having it used for nefarious purposes, something that is not possible with cash. However, with adequate security systems and hard to guess passwords most users are secure.
Hacking: Similarly, data that you provide in the form of bioinformatics, passwords, email addresses, and personal data can be hacked by determined people, even with all the safeguards in the world.
Reliability: We’ve all experienced the problems when walking into a supermarket or shop where the server has gone down and all the checkouts state “No Card Payments Today – Cash Only”.