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How close are we to a cashless society?

Just as credit and debit cards are gradually killing the cheque, it’s now predicted that we’re heading towards a cashless future. But will we ever really give up cash all together?

Over 340 billion non-cash payments, with an estimated total value of $883 trillion, were undertaken globally in 2014, according to the Bank of International Settlements.

contactless paymentScandinavia Leads
But the picture varies considerably from country to country. Currently it’s Denmark and Sweden that are blazing a trail towards a completely cashless society. In Denmark, retailers are no longer legally bound to accept cash payments and almost a third of the population uses an official Danske Bank app called MobilePay, which links mobiles phones to other users’ phones and to sensors at cash tills.

According to Riksbank, Sweden’s central bank, cash transactions made up barely 2% of the value of all payments made in Sweden in 2015, and that figure is predicted to drop to 0.5% by 2020. Cash is now used for only 20% of transactions, compared to the global average of 75%. 

Banks Without Cash
In fact, as many as 900 of Sweden’s 1,600 bank branches no longer keep cash or take cash deposits at all. And a charitable magazine, Situation Stockholm, has issued card readers to the homeless people who sell their magazine so even people who don’t carry cash can still buy a copy.
In the UK, one in eight young people carry no cash at all and monthly spending on contactless cards is now running at around £1.5 billion, according to The Guardian. 

Tipping Point
But the demise of cash may still be a long way off. Figures from MasterCard show cash still accounts for around 85% of global consumer transactions and major global economies including the US, Australia, Germany and South Korea are still only at the tipping point towards cashless, according to Visual Capitalist.
In the UK, which is considered fairly advanced in the move towards becoming cashless, cash is still going strong. On one bank holiday in the UK in 2016, more than £1.7 billion was withdrawn from ATMs across the country. That’s more than 7% higher than the same bank holiday the previous year.

Too Fast
Even the early adopters are showing signs of pulling back from a totally cashless future. Earlier this year, the Riksbank called for the Swedish government to make it a legal requirement for banks to provide a cash service, claiming that banks have reduced their cash handling services too quickly.
The jury is still out on whether we will ever become entirely cashless, however, there is an ever growing number of ways to pay without cash.

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