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Britain should follow Sweden’s ‘cashless’ example

LONDON, UK (Centus) - Brett Scott recently produced an article condemning the move towards a “cashless society”. Citing Sweden as an example of a European nation that has embraced this trend, he said this is not a position many people want to adopt. The Nordic nation has been leading the way in Europe for cashless payments. Abba’s Bjorn Ulvaeus is supporting a campaign for the Scandinavian country to become cash-free. Small businesses are also jumping on the bandwagon, with domestic technologies such as iZettle, the Swedish start-up behind Europe’s first credit card reader, adopting this position. Even homeless people selling charity magazines have started to deploy this payment method via Point of Sale terminals.

Swish, a popular Swedish innovation used by more than 50 per cent of the Nordic nation’s 10 million people and supported by major banks, allows customers to transfer money securely to anyone else who is using the app, just by texting their mobile number. People are deploying this payment method at Sweden’s flea markets, school fetes and to settle restaurant bills. Even though Riksbank updated Swedish coins and banknotes in 2010, their efforts were wasted. Cashless transactions have only increased since. 1 per cent of the value of payments were made using notes last year, even though that figure stands at 7 per cent across the rest of Europe.

Yet Mr. Scott said Brits do not desire a cashless society due to fears of an increase in state surveillance, financial cybercrime and an exclusion of people who cannot access the formal banking system. He said banks and payment companies want cash to disappear because it prevents them from making profits over public utilities. However, his commentary is negative, though he is correct to warn consumers should be cautious.

This is a position the UK could do well to follow and one that it cannot escape. Banks like Morgan Stanely have written about mobile payments themselves, accepting this new platform. A 2013 NACHA Global Payments Forum white paper said banks can only survive if they accept digitalised forms of payments. They provide opportunities for small businesses. PayPal Here is perfect for merchants who do less than five figures in sales in a month and have an average transaction of under £17. Square provide a monthly subscription plan for traders who do 5-6 digit sales every month and have key transactions, including ones over £400. Though there are caches to some of these methods, like Intuit GoPayment’s subscription service coming with hidden sub-charges, the positives overwhelmingly outnumber the negatives.

Mr. Scott is wrong. Becoming a cashless society is not necessarily a bad outcome for the UK. In October 2016, 68.7 million debit cards were in circulation throughout Britain. Many Brits are dropping cash payments altogether and these numbers are only set to increase. British payment companies and banks would do well to encourage these types of transactions; it seems to be the future for many of them and cash could well go out of fashion.

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