Layne is an active freelance writer. She enjoys staying up-to-date on trends, media, and emerging topics.
What Is a Cashless Society?
What is the meaning of a cashless society? Will cash ever go away? This type of society is literally what it sounds like: no cash. But without cash, transactions will be digital, traceable, and controlled. So what are the advantages and disadvantages?
"Cashless society" is essentially referring to an economy in which all financial transactions are done using an electronic version of legal tender or money (coins, banknotes, etc.). The concept is not a new one and it's been been talked about since the mid-20th century (1954) in line with discussion of a “checkless society” and even referenced in the Bible, according to USAToday.com. In some societies, it's a concept much like bartering. Now, digital currencies like Bitcoin are becoming much more common to represent such transactions.
Electronic banking cropped up in the 1990s and most countries were onboard with digital methods of transactions by 2010—Venmo, PayPal, and Apple pay. Likewise, various countries' direction towards going cashless fall on a spectrum, as such advancements allow for digital managing and tracking of exchange, commerce, and investment.
How a Pandemic Surged Conversation
Since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in December 2019 and into 2020, people switched to contactless methods of payments to avoid touching germ-harboring objects (coins, dollar bills, etc.). Cash is pretty filthy when looked at under a microscope (sampled and cultured); it’s a super-germ spreader due to its material.
To keep up with COVID-19 shifts, many vendors and businesses had to make a switch and reevaluated their operating models. Online shopping also surged. The New York times reported that in the United States, 40 million customers went online for groceries in April 2020.
Pros: The Benefits of a Cashless Economy
It is argued that ditching cash would lead to numerous benefits and advantages, such as lower crime rates since there would be no money to steal, the disappearance of money laundering and tax evasion, and so forth. In addition, we would see things like easier currency exchange.
Why is it good?
Here are some of the said benefits of a cashless economy:
Financial transactions would be a lot easier for many. People would no longer need to carry cash or visit the ATM for withdrawals. Spending money while traveling will also be a lot easier in addition to covering emergency costs.
2. The Ability to Track Spending
People will be empowered to track spending more easily and will be able to file income tax returns with additional ease. In addition, people will be able to sign up for budgeting programs to help with money management, as mentioned below.
3. The Ability to Budget
Many platforms for tracking spending (budgeting and balancing) will help people form a better idea of what their spending habits look like. Imagine shopping and checking your monthly spending accruals—seeing a red indication when you go to view your account. Would that stop you from an unnecessary purchase? This could very well help people with poor money management skills.
4. It's Less Risky
If you’ve ever had money stolen or lost money, you know that there is really no way to trace it. Imagine traveling without the need to secure your money to your body or place it somewhere where you won’t loose it or be at risk of it disappearing. There are some very intriguing futuristic proposals for digital currency include biometric IDs. These might include finger prints, eye scans, and such, which might improve overall security.
The Cons: Why Is Going Cashless Bad?
There are many reasons why going cashless might be considered bad or a disadvantage for a majority as detailed below.
1. The Tech Unsavvy Suffer
Some people are not tech savvy due to lack of exposure and resources, so it would be difficult for people who live in rural communities or those that have specifically decided to move away from tech to adopt new guidelines. It’s also hard for older generations to convert to digital modes of payments.
2. Bad for Small Business
Some places do not accept cards simply put. Small retailers and business may not be able to invest in the digital infrastructure necessary to fulfill the needs of a cashless economy.
3. Bad for Cash-Dependent Jobs
A cashless economy would also extinguish odd jobs that pay “under the table” for a few bucks. Many people, especially individuals waiting out status changes or waiting the benefits of residency or citizenship, will face added challenge. People who specialize in unique trades might have to adopt radically different approaches for business operations.
4. Government Control
Some people fear government control as it can prevent people from purchasing specific things (illegal transactions in this list, gambling); the government could document and tax everything. People become totally traceable. Central banks are in control of money production for nations and groups of nations, and many (70% according to a BIS report) are considering issuing digital currency. " No more “under the table” payments.
5. Identity Theft
Identity theft will still be an issue if cash is ditched due to an increase in traps and online fraud such as digital platform hacking. In addition, if you lose all options for a digital transaction (like your phone is lost our damage) what would you really do? What if your phone battery dies and it's your only method of payment?
It could also lead individuals to overspend, especially those lacking enough awareness and regulation of their own habits.
A Cashless Society in the Bible
What does the Bible say about a cashless society? Did Dave Ramsey warn of a cashless society? An interview on NPR discussed an old Facebook post by Dave Ramsey discussing this ability for the government to block transactions and track accounts (though Ramsey denies posting this). A unique interview further cropped up from this thread of investigative journalism regarding spurred discussion regarding cashless society predictions in the Book of Revelation, suggesting that a this type of society is the precursor to an apocalypse.
What Does the Bible Say?
The interview was conducted by Tess Vigeland back in 2011 with Reverand Father Felix Just of Loyola Institute for Spirituality. According to Father Just (Father Felix), the Book of Revelation Chapter 13, Verse 7 discusses the second beast rising out of the earth in Verse 16:
“all both small and great, both rich and poor, but free and slave to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell who does not have the mark. That is, the name of the beast or the number of its name.”
This is interpreted to mean that Christian believers cannot buy or sell goods (the mark of the beast being 666). Father Just goes on to say that the Book of Revelation does not predict the future, rather, it is meant to be symbolic and has historical references . . . it is not suggesting that those who use credit cards or phones will be harmed.
Father Just also states that the Bible does not predict a cashless society, despite some claims. The closest thing to that, he adds, is from Isaiah, Chapter 55, in which it references that this type of economy might be a good thing:
“All you who are thirsty, come to the water, you who have no money, come receive grain and eat. Come without paying and without cost. Drink wine and milk. Why spend your money for what is not bread, your wages what fails to satisfy.”
According to Father Just, in the ideals of God, everyone should be able to feed themselves for free.
What country is a cashless society?
It is said that 80% of Swedes use cards for payments (and digital payments with apps are also common). Children also use debit cards and cash is not really carried by most. Britain is also moving towards a cashless society and it is projected that less than 1 in 10 payments would be cash come 2035.
Australia may also become the first cashless society of the Asia-Pacific; the Commonwealth Bank thinks this will be a reality by 2026. Alternatively, 82% of Americans (United States) still carry cash for reasons like tipping to emergency funds and also familiarity, according to Forbes.
Is there still cash in a cashless society?
Yes, technically. It's just a move towards less of it circulating. It's unlikely to think that cash will disappear entirely, but the move towards peer-to-peer payment platforms will grow in commonness. This is due to what Shelle Santana (Harvard marketing professor) describes of digitally native generations. Venmo and Apple pay, PayPal and Adyen (Netherlands) are really easy to conceptualize.
Will cash ever go away?
The thought is yes, but not for another 50 to 100 years. Will you be around by then?
Cryptocurrency: Bitcoin, P2P Transactions, and the Future
What are cryptocurrencies anyway? Cryptocurrency is a secured digital/virtual currency that cannot be counterfeit or double-spent. Users do not need to use their personal identification or to go through a bank for transactions.
According to Wikipedia.com, "Satoshi Nakamoto is the name used by the presumed pseudonymous person or persons who developed bitcoin" which was first shared in 2008. It was the creation of a peer-to-peer transaction in which the file of the transaction is broadcasted to networks and gets confirmed by a "miner" who stamps it as legitimate. These transaction are then added to the blockchain database and miners are rewarded when they confirm a transaction—they get paid in cryptocurrency.
The peer-to-peer (P2P), permissionless, and private transactions are run on public ledger “blockchain” on a network of computers; everyone can inspect this public ledger and no one controls it. Some think Bitcoin is the digital cash equivalent of the future and is an alternative to centralized money since Bitcoin is decentralized—merging physical cash and digital payments to make digital cash.
How Does Bitcoin Become Cash?
People sell bitcoin on a cryptocurrency exchange (Coinbase, which lets you sell it as cash, or Kraken) and it can be withdrawn from a back account directly.
Facebook and the Libra Token
Cryptocurrency will likely become more mainstream. Facebook attempted to launch "project Libra" andCalibra digital wallet, however, with political and regulatory pressure, will support existing currencies (government-backed currency like the euro and dollar) and the Libra token, a blockchain-based cryptocurrency developed with the Libra Association (nonprofit). In 2020 they rebranded the Libra payment ecosystem, Calibra digital wallet, to Novi.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2020 Laynie H
Laynie H (author) from Bend, Oregon on August 16, 2020:
Thanks for reading. The TED talk is interesting too in that it argued how street crime went down when government checks went digital—less robberies from people walking with their cash on them. I'm undecided in some ways on what should or could happen. I don't like carrying cash but I also like paying cash for small businesses and to independent contractors. Hard to say!
Lora Hollings on August 15, 2020:
This is a very interesting and excellent article, Layne, on what is the wave of the future when it comes to paying for goods or services; will we convert to a predominantly cashless society or will cash in some form or another always be in use? Your point about rural communities, unique businesses and small businesses is a well made one as many of these people depend on cash to survive. But for people who don't want the risk of identity theft and more control over their money, then the cryptocurrencies seem to be a very good alternative. You have presented the arguments well for and against a cashless society and how this pandemic is influencing the way people are now purchasing most products.
Laynie H (author) from Bend, Oregon on August 15, 2020:
Thanks for reading. I almost always try to pay cash to small businesses and I understand when they have a minimum established for a card charge. I also know people who get paid cash for their work and would be jobless if things changed. I'm glad you are honoring small business. Thanks for the read.
Liz Westwood from UK on August 15, 2020:
This is a very relevant and interesting article. I thought that COVID might hasten the end of cash. But I have been surprised by a recent development. I know of small restaurants that will no longer take cards. The card machine rental and costs of transactions were deemed excessive, especially during a time of closure. I have heard that the local greengrocer is struggling with the costs of using a card machine. So much so that a thoughtful friend
has reverted to paying small local businesses with cash.