Cashless Society -Is It On The Cards?

Posted on: 10/09/2014

I travel quite extensively and everywhere I go, I witness the frantic efforts of Visa and other card schemes to persuade the public - you & me - to switch to using cards, rather than cash or any other payment method.

So far they haven't succeeded. The full extent of their failure was made obvious a few months ago, when the European Central Bank revealed that 90% of all payments under 20 Euros in Europe are still made using cash.

However, lack of success does not deter Visa, because the prize is so big. If they can reduce the 90% figure quoted above to 70%, their already colossal revenues are likely to more than double.

So Visa spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year, funding their hopefully lost cause, promoting their , frankly, rather boring product. This explains why, in almost every country I visit, TV Ads and Roadside Billboards often make it seem Visa are just about the only advertiser in the world. 

The thing that really annoys me, though, is when I am buying an item in a shop and the sales person informs me I will receive a discount of, say, 20% if I use a card. Such offers show in stark relief both the desperation of the card schemes and their rather obscene financial muscle.

We know from the annual transaction cost surveys produced by the British Retail Consortium that cash is, by a long way, the cheapest payment method for shopkeepers to process. There is, therefore, no reason on earth why a retailer would want to give a customer a discount for using a card. Other than, that is, the huge subsidies such offers enjoy from Visa and similar card schemes.

Apart from the daft discounts, the main thing that annoys me about "secure" card payments in shops is that they are slower than using cash. I have my cash in my hand before arriving at the till but many card users, no doubt reduced to a semi-hypnotic state by Visa ads, wait until getting to the point of payment before struggling to extricate their cards from their wallets and handbags. This has been made worse by the need to keep cards in different places to avoid the infamous contactless "card clash". Most people now have two wallets they can misplace or lose entirely.

Still, the queues won't be too bad so long as 90% of payments under 20 Euros remain as cash transactions. Lets keep it that way.

If you are ever tempted by one of the hyped silly discounts the card schemes fund to persuade you to give up the cash you love, remember that if we lost cash as a payment method, there would be no more discounts. Instead, the card schemes could do whatever they want, increasing the charges they levy from retailers and pushing prices up. It is interesting that the two fastest growing grocery retailers in the UK, Aldi and Lidl, shun cards in favor of cash. The avoidance of the fees levied by card schemes helps keep their prices down.

I would urge everyone to use cash as much as possible. "Use it or lose it" is a good thing to keep in mind. Also, if you feel that your Government is in cahoots with the card schemes to try to rob you of the right  to use cash, VOTE THEM OUT OF OFFICE.

If you value choice, the freedom and independence to do what you want to do, rather than what you are forced to do, PLEASE KEEP USING CASH.




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