Cash is terrible — it’s dirty as hell, easily torn, and irreplaceable if lost or stolen. It facilitates tax evasion and illegal transactions on an enormous scale. Getting it requires lining up at a machine and paying a steep fee. And every time you cross a new border, you have to trade in one country’s bills and coins for another. Using paper bills and metal coins to buy things is, frankly, a crude and primitive practice that should have ended years ago.
Luckily, the sane people of Denmark are leading us into the glorious post-cash future.
Reuters reports that Denmark’s ministry of finance is preparing to allow certain businesses to opt out of cash transactions. As of 2016, clothing stores, restaurants, and gas stations will be allowed to turn away customers who can’t pay electronically. It’s the first step toward moving to a cashless economy, and could even help the country’s economy by minimizing the costs associated with dealing in cash.
Cash payments “involve considerable administrative and financial burdens,” Denmark’s finance minister, Bjarne Corydon, said, according to Quartz..
Cash is falling out of favor all around the world, as consumers move to credit cards and digital payment methods like Apple Pay and Bitcoin. Only 25 percent of retail transactions were paid for by cash or check last year in Denmark, according to the Danish Payment Council. (In the U.S., cash is more popular, accounting for around 40 percent of consumer transactions.)
Sure, in a cashless America, credit card fees and other associated costs of non-cash methods would eat up a chunk of people’s money. And you’d have to figure out a way for the 9 million Americans who have no bank accounts to participate. But cash is expensive, too — one 2013 study by Tufts University researchers estimated that using cash costs Americans $200 billion a year, primarily due to theft and ATM fees — and the costs fall disproportionately on low-income people.
As of last year, the U.S. government was still printing 6.2 billion physical bills a year, at a cost of millions of dollars to taxpayers. It’s time to take a lesson from the Danes (whose central bank is ceasing to print new money as of next year) and admit that the 5,000-year reign of physical currency has run its course.