Small Businesses In Sweden Try To Adapt To A World Without Cash

from WaPo

Sweden is serious about becoming a cashless society. How serious? Even the Abba Museum no longer accepts cash. Now that is serious.

Some researchers are predicting that cash there will be a “very marginal payment form” by 2020. Things are definitely trending in that direction. According to this BBC report, less than 20 percent of retailers now use cash. That’s half what it was just five years ago. Everywhere from public transit to tourist attractions — yes, even the Abba Museum — have also gone cashless. Since the government and banking officials announced their plans to reduce bank notes and coins in 2010, the circulation of Swedish krona has fallen by 40 percent.

Many believe that Sweden has succeeded in going cashless so quick because of its connected infrastructure, smaller population (10 million) and a higher level of trust by the people in the country’s banking system. A concern is whether this significant reduction in cash transactions will be a problem for the country’s small business owners. For some, it will be. But most seem to be adapting just fine.

More here.

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6 Comments

  1. If I’ve learned anything in all my years of history classes is that once something starts it’s hard to stop especially when it comes to technology. So when Sweden decides they want to go cashless by 2020 and they’re already 80 percent of the way there, nothing is going to stop that. That however does not mean it could not back fire once the conversion has been made. Sweden is also a country of a relatively low population so even if they do find success the system could struggle in a country with a much larger population such as the U.S. or China. There are a lot of variables here so I think it is incredibility important to go through each one of them if the conversation shifts to a cashless United States.
    Firstly one of the biggest problems at first glance is the issue of people either not having the internet or smartphone. In the U.S. in 2018 about 77 percent of Americans (http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/mobile/) own a smart phone. That is a very significant percentage of Americans but in a cashless society that leaves 23 percent unable to partake in the economy in anyway. Though in just the past 7 years this number has increased from 35 percent to where it stands now at 77 percent. That means in a relatively short amount of time a huge portion of the population has made the switch and the remaining people who do not own a smart phone are largely the elderly who did not grow up in the digital age. At this point though even my 60 year old dad who has refused a smart phone for at least 5 years is now getting one. The point being that while not all elderly will switch to a smart phone a good portion of them might as time goes on along with the fact that a lot of them may pass away. It is also important to note that this switch would not happen all at once and if we started making it a national goal it would still probably take a while to implement. This is considering that were pretty close to a cashless society already anyway which brings me to my next point.
    The second most obvious problem is the security issue, if someone gets access to you information, your phone, or your account then you stand to lose a lot of money very quickly and having a cashless society will increase the amount of potential targets hackers will have to choose from. This really doesn’t mean all that much because this has already been a problem for a while as most people already have the capability to access their money online anyway so consequently so have hackers. In America this wouldn’t really be a big deal as we have competent infrastructure in place to give reparations to people who have had their identity stolen because we’ve had to deal with this for a while. These to me are the two biggest problems America currently faces in regards to becoming a cashless society but one is solved with time and the other is something that will always be a problem but we have systems in place to both protect us from it and repay us in case it does happen.

  2. With Sweden making advancements towards the future through the practice of paperless transactions, what says that we cannot follow their path? It is already inevitable that we are heading in that direction, but why have we waited so long. Many people might feel scared by the thought of an extinction of cash. For decades people felt that cash was the safest mean of transaction and that it insured their safety in the form of a hard copy that could never be taken unless done so right in front of their eyes. However, cash is in the past and there are some reasons why.
    “In general, consumers are very interested in new technologies, so we’re quite early to adopt [them],” explains Niklas Arvidsson, a professor at Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology. Although this statement is applying directly to the location in context, this is a worldwide thought. Companies use consumer psychology to attract study their users, learn what they like, and further attract them through advancements supporting their associations. What does this mean? Even for those who may not seem into the idea of no more cash, things will change soon. Sweden is the primary example in this situation because of the large percentage of the country that has said “enough with cash”, but this is going on everywhere for multiple reasons.
    One of the largest problems with cash is inflation, and yes, it is not salient yet, but prices have been rising over time and they will continue to rise. In essence, what you have in the bank today will buy you less tomorrow. Taking away the flow of cash and using a credit or mobile transactions can help to keep price stable. It is nothing certain that we will make a complete change, but it is the direction that we are heading in the US. I feel as though it is better because that is what will be most suitable when the time comes. Our technologically lives will no longer need cash, and that is okay. You can see safer aspects through cards in forms like traceable records, multilayered security in cards, the fact of cancelation, payment offers, etc.

  3. The concept of going cashless seems almost surreal in the manner that it does not seem entirely possible, however, the benefits of it are pretty alluring. If Sweden does successfully go cashless, they will most likely see less illegal activity like robbery or fraud. There will be no incentive for armed robbery because there is simply no financial gain in it for the criminal anyway. Also, without cash, it becomes basically impossible for people to commit financial fraud in terms of reporting their earnings to the government. This idea alone seems so intelligent that I am actually surprised that this is one of the first time I’ve read about the concept of going cashless as a nation and as a society. The thought of the United States of America going without a physical currency is absolutely ludicrous. This is most likely due to the fact that we are approximately 30 times the size of Sweden in terms of population and we are living in a society that has a lot of large groups of people with opposing views. I think if Congress tried to institute such a policy as this, we would see a lot of backlash from the public, ultimately preventing this from going into affect.

    Even though this theory of going cashless seems like a great concept for Sweden, I am curious as to how exactly it would work. Domestically, it seems completely status quo, but when it comes to trade and international business I think there could be several red flags that the nation could encounter. The biggest threat that I see from going cashless is internet hacking and cybersecurity. If I was part of Sweden’s government, I would make sure a considerable amount of additional funds go to improving cybersecurity to ensure the safety and the reputation of Sweden. I am not trying to diminish the threat of personal account hacking (because that is a HUGE issue), but much more destruction could become reality for the Swedish government should their financial records and policies be leaked through hacking. I believe there would be protests, boycotts, and broken relationships for the country if something like this should occur, and a big part of success for a country is its support from the residents within that country. Even countries like North Korea have a ton of support from its residents (maybe this is due to the strict environment they live in, but they still show their support publicly for their government).

    Overall, the idea of a cashless society makes a lot of sense to me. I, too, do not see the purpose of having a physical currency in circulation other than for its symbolism. In the technologically advanced world that we live in, I’m surprised that this is a topic that is just becoming a possible trend in 2017/18. I believe that due to the small population and progressive political nature of Sweden, their government could successfully go cashless in the near future. It seems that the rest of the world (at least Europe) will follow in Sweden’s footsteps as they have very common values politically. It will definitely be an adjustment for the people of Sweden, but if security measures are taken appropriately then I do not see the harm in taking a step into the future of our global economies by going cashless.

  4. This article from the Washington Post discusses how Sweden retail has gone almost completely cashless. This is an interesting concept to me. When I buy things, I never use cash. In fact, I rarely carry more than ~$20 on me. There are so many easier and more convenient ways to make purchases in today’s digital world. My favorite is using Apple Pay. I am able to make purchases from my phone or even watch. All you have to do is tap your device against the reader. The transaction is extremely safe. This technology creates a unique card number each time you make a transaction and only authorizes the amount that you pay. Since this is the case, no one can steal this card number and make fraudulent purchases. To go a step further, Apple does not even store your card number on their servers. They only get it once and verify with the credit card company. I agree with the author that this trend will really take off. I already see most people I know carrying only a small amount of cash.

    Of course, there are some downsides to going cashless. The majority of the headaches that would come with this trend fall on the business. The biggest one is that businesses are charged processing fees on every single sale that they make. If they make a cash transaction, then there are of course no processing fees. They also have to worry about having the infrastructure in place to take payments. This is a more minor detail though, because most businesses today already have some sort of cashless payment options available to customers.

    Not everyone is for this idea of becoming a cashless world. In fact, the city of Philadelphia became the first U.S. city to ban cashless stores. Opponents of this concept say that it hurts lower income individuals and they want to protect all citizens access to the marketplace. I agree that it is tough to force everyone to use a digital payment method. Lower income individuals may not have access to a cellular device. Also, they may not even have a bank account. It is kind of hard to imagine a world where no one even takes cash. I can think of a situation where you send your kid to the store to get themselves some ice cream. In a cashless world what would you do? Send them with your phone or credit card. Would you trust them not to lose either? I think that it will be very interesting to see how this cashless trend goes in the next few years. It will probably be a huge difference from the way we all saw the world growing up.

  5. This would be revolutionary not only for Sweden but for the United States, if they were able to accomplish this. By not having a use for coins this would make every transaction easier and more efficient. People would not be constantly losing money by dropping coins on the floor. Many people tend to drop the change on the floor because “they don’t need it” or because it is a nuisance to hear them moving around in their pocket. This is bad because no matter how small the value it still adds up at the end of the day. By moving currency online this could help people keep a better track of their money. In addition, this would increase the amount people would shop online and could minimize issues such as fake money. Handing over a fake twenty dollar bill is uncommon this has happened many times. I have seen videos where people have cheated cashiers out of money, creating an unfair advantage and a crime. By getting rid of paper money and coins could help the world by having everyone’s finances online where they can keep track of everything all in one place. Some people do not carry cash because it is bulky and risky to walk around with an envelope with money. This world we live in today we can have access to our money through our phones. Being able to use our credit or debit cards to buy online makes life a lot easier. This is because we don’t have to make sure we have exact change or hold up the line if we have to look for more money within our wallets. Also if something is not in store we can simply order it online with our cards. Some people like the idea of having paper money and coins but the reality of this is, it enables more crimes to be committed and would be difficult to track down the criminal. In one of the fast and furious movies they stole a vault full of money, if banks had no physical dollars and coins they would not need to worry about a situation like this. They would have their money all computerized and would not need to worry about bank robbers coming into the bank and threatening people for money. Banks would monitor the interactions from accounts, if there was any suspicious activity they would call and confirm you are the one making transactions. This would be easy to tell and track down, if someone has infiltrated your account and stole money.

  6. Going cashless is one of the major developments taking place in different parts of the world in present times. It is quite exciting how it is becoming embraced fast, and as the article states, Sweden projected in 2017 that the whole society would have gone cashless by 2030. I feel an evaluation of this progress is necessary so that it be known how far the present status. The article state that by 2020, experts projected that cash will be a “very marginal payment form.” It then argues that because the country has a small population, adoption of cashless forms of payment will be much easier to accomplish. From my view, this argument is quite persuasive, but it misses one important point. That if government policy does not encourage this shift, or rather if the shift is left for the society alone without a complementary and deliberate government effort to encourage the shift to cashless society, it may never be fully achieved as there are people who may never fully embrace this change.

    When there is a deliberate effort by the government to encourage this shift, the size of the population will not really matter on how fast this change happens. China is a good example because with its huge population size, adoption of cashless transactions has happened quite fast, and hundreds of millions of people have fully embraced cashless transactions. Finally, I feel this adoption of cashless transactions is really welcome as it helps to make life more convenient, in that one does not need to walk carrying money. Another advantage is fighting crimes such as money laundering and illegal businesses. It would be quite difficult to conduct transactions for these businesses since the transactions can be easily traced.

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