Going Cashless: A Brief Story of Changing Payment Habits
“There is nothing permanent except change” – Heraclitus.
If Heraclitus lived in today’s world, his jaw would drop when he saw the concept of “Change” in the modern times. For the last few decades, our lives have been changing at the speed of light while we continuously try to organise our daily life according to what’s new. Since the propagation of the Internet knocked on the door blasting, our kind’s superpower, adaptation, was on a trial of fire.
For our Gen Z readers born into this whirling advanced technology, it is almost beyond the realms of possibility to imagine an offline world. Yet, we have been there, and it would not be inaccurate to define those times with one simple word: limitation! Communication, art, announcements of scientific improvements, and significant events worldwide. Almost everything was limited at a snail’s pace in contrast to the current meteoric wave.
Undoubtedly, one of the most affected fields from going online, just like for hundreds of years, has been financial ecosystems. Actually, this has been the nature of monetary perspectives for centuries due to their vital place in maintaining a good life. When a pioneer invention occurs, such as the printing press, the concept of banking, or the mighty Internet, it initially reflects on how we use money. Because at the end of the day, we are more attached to our spending habits than all.
Before We Met with Cashless Payments
Although our younger readers may not be familiar, there was a time when debit cards were solely used to cash out, and you had to visit your bank branch to review your transaction history. ATMs were physical machines providing instant cash but nothing else extra. Those were also the days we used to carry a bundle of money concerning not finding an ATM close. Another option was cheque books symbolising our balance. However, no need to mention the tremendous burden of bum cheques on the economy and personal security.
Let’s think of a soothing (!) holiday in Santorini at the beginning of the 2000s. You had to carry a considerable amount of money since to make a draft from a foreigner ATM would cost a cut up to 4%. Moreover, after a tiring search for an exchange branch under the roasting sun, you need to convert your currency into the local one. Yet, the worst part was carrying them with you.
Are you headed to a beach, do not forget your beach towel and space-occupying banknotes with you. Where to keep the rest? Is it safe to leave it all behind in the hotel room? Where to hide them? So instead of enjoying crystal clear waters, golden sand and an icy Frappe, your mind is stuck on your cash. Is this the holiday you have waited for the entire year? It sounds more like la-la-land! Right?
A Whole New Way of Payment!
Today, thanks to the urging technologies of internet banking, POS devices, and wireless Internet, the irresistible comfort of going light has been widely adopted among us. Cashless payments let us purchase products or services through credit cards and debit cards, and our smartphones via a tap of a card or other device close to a point-of-sale terminal with RFID (Frequency-Identification-Technology) and NFC (Near-Field-Communication). Just a simple password or even no subsequent contact with POS terminals in the case of a contactless payment technology! Seamless transactions with no wait, no pricey fees and no matter where you go. These devices are magical items indeed!
Getting rid of the perils of carrying cash is relieving. In a scenario where you lose your wallet, nobody can access your account without a PIN code, whereas it will probably take a couple of minutes to block your funds in any case. Therefore, cashless payment options are far more secure besides being handy.
Furthermore, paper money can be invisible in the systems, facilitating malicious activities in grey and black markets. Therefore, it does not surprise anyone that the best admirers of a cashless society are regulatory authorities such as tax administrations or criminal investigators because tracking suspicious transactions may reduce the crime rate and improve taxation regulations.
However, traceability in finances also has a flip side when we change our perspective. Handling all our personal and financial information to a system that may purposely sell our privacy to third parties or leak it to fraudulent hands following a cyber-attack may create severe matters. Since all our data, including our full names, current addresses, and transaction history, are recorded, it may cause unpleasant circumstances even for an ordinary citizen.
Is a Cashless Society Possible?
The current statistics applied to 22 European countries show that 58.8% of respondents prefer contactless payments over hand-to-hand. Indeed, the catastrophic pandemia days of Covid-19 have a massive role in this survey results. The meaning of “dirty money” evolved into a well-cut piece of paper and metal transmitting all the germs and viruses rather than illegal money. None of us wants to touch metal coins or banknotes for fear!
When this immersive demand for cashless payment options mingled with mind-blowing technology, the Renaissance of cashless finances began. Most developed countries like Finland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, China, and South Korea have already gone cashless through immense debit/credit cards, mobile banking, and digital wallet usage.
All in all, cashless payments are the latest mode for now in the long journey of monetary evolution that we started bartering seashells and beads as commodity exchanges. What will the future bring? This is a mystery; for now, however, it seems that paper money and coins will take their places on the dusty shelves of history while cashless payment benefits penetrate our daily routine with concrete steps.
So next time you visit a lovely beach, just grab your card with you and enjoy every single moment of your holiday instead of feeling uncomfortable with your stash of cash. Life is lighter and comfier in cashless, while living today through cutting-edge technology is absolutely priceless!