Cashless Society: The Pros and Cons

You’ve probably heard the term “cashless society” popping up in the news lately. But what exactly is a cashless society, and what does it mean for businesses and consumers?

Simply put, “cashless” not only includes debit and credit cards, but mobile wallets, electronic payment apps (like Zelle, PayPal, and Venmo), and cryptocurrencies.

Who is cashless?

According to Square, half of consumers used their card for an $8 transaction in 2015. Four years later, the transaction size has dropped dramatically, with half of consumers using their card for a $4.50 purchase in 2019.

In fact, nearly one-third of Americans have stopped using cash for typical weekly spending, and on an international level, in Sweden only 15% of retail sales are made in cash, and some banks no longer handle cash at all.

Who is NOT cashless?

Philadelphia was the first major city in the United States to ban cashless retail, and at the time this was written, New York City, Washington DC, San Francisco, and Chicago are currently considering similar policies.

On a state level, New Jersey and Massachusetts have banned cashless retail stores and restaurants.

So, why the debate? Let’s explore the benefits – and risks – of a cashless society.

Pros

A cashless society could:

  • Boost Business Operational Efficiency: By presenting the opportunity for smoother, faster, and automated transactions and bookkeeping, businesses could complete customer transactions and back-office bookkeeping faster.
  • Strengthen Security: If a digital wallet falls into the wrong hands, it can be simple to shut down, and some cashless features (like biometric authentication) can enhance security.
  • Increase Convenience: Cashless payments (clearly) eliminate the need to carry cash, and digital payments can be made with a simple tap or wave of a smartphone. Additionally, cashless technology can create an easier currency exchange during international travels.
  • Lower Crime: A cashless society could potentially lower crime rates as there would be no tangible money to steal. Cashless transactions could also mean less money laundering because of a consistent paper trail would automatically be created.

Cons

On the other hand, a cashless society could also:

  • Exclude Populations: For many individuals, cash is still king; 4 million households in the United States (or 6.5% of all households) were unbanked in 2017. A cashless society could exclude significant populations, like the elderly and low-income individuals, from being potential customers.
  • Create Security Risks: We know we just discussed security benefits, but there are also potential security risks to going cashless. For example, if someone’s phone is stolen, hackers could crack the PIN and access the victim’s mobile wallet(s). It’s likely that cybercriminals are working on specific hacking strategies in anticipation of a cashless, card-less future. Additionally, more cashless transactions means the potential for even more exposed personal information to possible data breaches, and for small businesses that could be a major risk: 43% of cyber-attack targets are small businesses.
  • Present Technological Problems: Simply put, technical difficulties (such as internet outages) could leave users with no access to money.
  • Increase Fees: According to XpressMoney.com, “Every time you pay by card, intermediaries charge a transaction fee. These fees would become unavoidable in a cashless society. On the other hand, most ATMs don’t charge you to withdraw cash, and you don’t pay any fees when you buy something with it. There’s no imminent danger of cash completely disappearing from circulation. However, both governments and consumers need to be aware of the potential pitfalls of a cashless society, as advances in technology mean we’re increasingly relying on digital forms of payment.”

Because Star Micronics is always leading and always innovating, our team likes to keep a finger on the pulse of the latest industry trends and keep you posted on how they could potentially affect your business.

Take a moment to tell us your thoughts on a cashless society in the comments below.

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