An article from Market Watch claims that America is moving to a cashless society.
Businesses who’ve gone cashless rave about the results. Flatstick owner Sam Largent told me plastic-only reduces error rates during times of complex accounting, such as calculating tips when shifts change.
Cash sure seems to be on the ropes. The dollar value of cash transactions sank 7% from 2010 to 2015, according to The Nilson Report, while credit and debit card payments rose nearly 50%. Meanwhile, ATMs, which had their 50th birthday last year, are disappearing around the block and around the world, signaling the decline of the “cash run.”
Of course, cash-free environments aren’t brand new. Airlines went cashless a long time ago (for meals and other onboard purchases), as did parking lots and other unmanned spots. And with the meteoric rise of friend-to-friend payment apps like Venmo, Zelle and Splitwise, we’re no longer throwing $20 bills on the table after a meal (or handing over cash or checks to roommates for the gas bill).
Obviously, it is still somewhat far off.
Not exactly. The Federal Reserve said in 2016 that 35% of U.S. transactions were still made in cash. And the amount of cash—literally, legal tender notes—being used around the world continues to rise. Plus, there are still plenty of obstacles to going cashless.
For starters, the FDIC estimates that 7% of the U.S. population is still unbanked. In other words, they live an all-cash life, so would be entirely shut out in a cashless society. Some also like the anonymity that comes with paying cash. Others use cash for budgeting reasons (when you’re out of cash, you stop spending).
Still, on a global scale, eliminating cash offers some intriguing possibilities. Merely the elimination of large denominations, which the EU has done, makes life much harder for large-enterprise criminals, like drug dealers. It’s far more conspicuous to carry around large piles of small bills. If all financial transactions were electronic, hiding crime would become much more difficult. There’s also the convenience factor of pulling out plastic (or your phone) instead of counting bills.
A cashless society is certainly a scary one. The idea that the government would be able to control the purchasing power of its citizens and know exactly what they buy at all times is something that would test the limits of liberty.