How often do you withdraw money from the A.T.M. at your bank? I do so semi-regularly, as much out of necessity for paying for small cost items instead of loading them into my E.F.T.P.O.S. card. I also have a bit on hand in case of emergencies or unforeseen/unavoidable spending. And so do many other people. And yet there are people who believe that one day society will be cashless.
There are several reasons to believe that society has definitely reduced its reliance on hard cash. And there is no doubt that for those who are able to use such technology, the benefits are considerable. Constant changes in information technology mean that products and services can be purchased using a smart phone, or even a *relatively* dumb phone (as long as it has internet access). The fact that pay wave technology is now common, means one can simply wave their credit card over the surface of a pay-wave capable E.F.T.P.O.S. machine, and provided can read the card, accept the transaction. The introduction of debit cards to enable the purchase of items paid straight from ones working bank account removes the need to get a wad of cash out to pay for that $600 phone or camera that you have been eyeing up, but didn’t have a credit card to pay for.
But there are significantly socio-economic issues that would have to be addressed before a cashless society can become a realistic prospect. One is a simple perception of trust in banks. Because they are such an integral part of our entire financial system, banks have to have a degree of trust in their customers and vice versa. This is something that has taken a whammy in recent years with perceptions of bankers having ulterior motives, but also following the Global Financial Crisis Mk, good reasons exist for believing . For older people and the socially disadvantaged, being able to adapt to a society that is changing rapidly and sometimes can be quite fairly accused of leaving them behind, the simple act of being able to see/handle ones finances is quite important. For those unable to afford internet access and smart phones making cash a digital commodity is simply impractical, and the number of people who fall into this category is high enough to impact on how the banking system works.
At the end of the day there are several very good reasons why a cashless society is never going to happen:
- For a lot of people – and businesses – it is simply inconvienient to only use cards and small change is very useful in dairies, supermarkets, paying to park the car in metered locations, among a whole host of other reasons
- Having money on hand in case of an emergency, such as an earthquake where bank A.T.M.’s or E.F.T.P.O.S. might be down or inaccessible for several days is always useful
- The potential for cyber crime targetting ones finances is very real, and although reputable banks generally take what steps they can to avoid their clients being cleaned out including guards on the card slots of their devices, passwords, text message notifications and so forth, there is no such thing as a fool proof bank account in the digital age
- Perhaps the one most would agree with is that there is something cool about having cold hard cash in your hands
- Trust – a corner stone on which banks and banking is founded – take away the corner stone and the whole industry is in a potentially existential crisis
So, as exciting as it might be for proponents of a totally digital age, I sincerely doubt it will happen, and given the potential for wrong doing, accidental or deliberate, that might not be a bad thing.