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Going Cashless – Countries Becoming Cashless Societies

Cashless Societies

Cashless payments are the future, at least according to many experts. More and more societies are moving towards becoming cashless, some embracing a cashless culture more than others. Since cash can be lost and because it’s annoying to carry large amounts, fewer people hold cash today or use it for day-to-day payments. Citizens of the world’s most cashless countries prefer other types of payment methods, such as cards or even mobile payments.

While some countries, such as Canada and Sweden, are already close to being fully cashless societies, others are still struggling with or are opposed to becoming cashless. This can be due to many factors, including low credit card usage, low internet penetration, low merchant adoption, or simply the convenience factor that cash provides. However, new financial technologies are becoming more ubiquitous, so the question is how long will cash survive?

In this post, we look at the top cashless societies in the world right now, as well as a developed country that still loves physical cash:

Top 3 Cashless Countries

Canada

Studies suggest that Canada is becoming a cashless society faster than any other country. The vast majority of payments in Canada are made by cashless methods, with contactless payments being widely accepted by Canadian merchants.

Canadians love credit cards and Canada shows a usage of over 2 credit cards per person. Visa states that more than 70% of personal purchases in Canada are made by credit card, giving Canada one of the highest card-based payments ratio in the world.

A survey conducted by the Bank of Canada in 2013 found that 44% of all transactions were done using cash, and that number decreased by 10% from 2009 to 2013. Moneris predicts that by 2030, only 10% of Canadian transactions will be made in cash.

Sweden

Sweden is the most cashless country in Europe with a steadily decreasing rate of cash transactions. Cash payments in stores totaled 40% in 2010 and went down to just 15% in 2016! According to a study by the Riksbank, Sweden’s central bank, two-thirds of Swedes feel that they can live without physical cash entirely.

A report from Roubini Thoughtlab quantified the benefits of moving from cash to digital payment methods in 100 cities all over the world. The study showed Stockholm as a “digital leader” – a city leading adoption of digital payments. Stockholm boasts highly developed banking and digital payment systems, high usage and high readiness of mobile devices and networks, as well as a population that is nearly fully banked.

The mobile payments system Swish is now highly popular in Sweden and in Stockholm, cash is no longer accepted as a payment method for public transportation. Many other businesses in Stockholm have also stopped accepting cash, such as the ABBA museum. The Riksbank is also investigating the possibility of issuing e-kronas, a digital complement to cash. This could help solve problems that might arise in the future as the use of cash is declining fast.

Interestingly, in 1661, Sweden became the first European country to print banknotes, and now it may become the first European country to rid themselves of physical cash altogether.

UK

The UK is another country leading the way in becoming a cashless society. A survey conducted by MoneySupermarket shows that UK citizens now make 20% more payments by card than by cash and the usage of alternative payment methods such as e-wallets is also growing. The latest research shows that 55% of all transactions are now made by cashless methods and 75% of those surveyed say they withdraw cash less often today than they did a year ago. 53% claim they would be happy if the UK became increasingly cashless and 36% use contactless or traditional card payments whenever possible.

New research from global law firm Paul Hastings shows that the value of non-cash payments in the UK will reach £1.44 trillion by 2026, a 26% increase from 2016. The study also forecasts that by 2026, 82% of all transactions in the UK will be cashless, an increase from 55% in 2016.

Research by GalaCasino.com has predicted that 2043 is the year when the UK may become completely cashless. Cash usage in the UK dropped from 71% in 2004 to 53% in 2014, and the research claims that the number of cash transactions in the UK could be at 0% by 2043.

Honorable Mention: India

Official statistics indicate an 80% increase in the value of digital transactions in 2017-18 in India. This very much has to do with the demonetisation that took place in India at the end of 2016. In India, cash is disappearing but card usage is still low, which means that merchants must offer other payment methods. This is where alternative payment methods come in, especially digital transactions. Digital payment companies have seen an increase in business since the government decided to promote cashless transactions after the demonetisation.

However, the move towards becoming a cashless society is slow. Even though the Indian government has worked hard to push digital payment methods, cash is still very popular among Indian citizens. But things can change quickly in India, as they did in China previously: five years ago cash was king in China, but today mobile payments are dominating. It is believed that India will experience a similar trend in the not too distant future.

According to the Global Payments Report published in November 2017, India is the fastest growing m-commerce market in the world. At the end of 2017, a study from Kantar TNS also revealed that mobile payments are on the rise in India. 35% of connected Indian consumers are using mobile payments and 33% would prefer to use their mobile phones as their only method of payment in the future. 23% also state that they now use mobile payments at least once a week.

Least Cashless Country: Germany

In Germany, cash still remains king. Germans tend to keep an average of €103 in physical cash on their person and many businesses in Germany, especially restaurants, still only accept cash. The German population are rather “old fashioned” when it comes to their payment preferences, although no one can seem to pinpoint why this is the case. According to research done by PYMNTS, Germany has a cash share of 20% as of 2016, which is higher than that of its neighbors.

History might be one of the reasons for the popularity of cash in Germany. The country faced repeated economic meltdowns in the 20th century, making its citizens wary of carrying debt. This could explain the low credit card usage in Germany and why cash is still the preferred payment method. In 2015, the level of card payments was at just 12% and is actually expected to fall to 8% by 2019! Also, only 25% of German shoppers use credit cards when they make an online purchase.

However, the younger population is opening up to the usage of alternative payment methods. Cash usage is still high but declined slightly from 2007 to 2016. By 2019, alternative payments are expected to dominate with a 92% transaction share.


With cash disappearing all around the world, other types of payment methods are filling the void. One alternative to using cash is using an e-wallet such as Payza. With an e-wallet, you can store your funds safely for payments and money transfers.

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