Do We Really Want Cashless Only?

Moving toward a fully cashless society, driven by a growing engagement with contactless card payments, may carry significant social challenges for society in the near future. This is according to social commentator and futurist, Mal Fletcher.

According to a new MasterCard study, 44 percent of British people say that they would stop using cash altogether if cards were accepted everywhere. Sixty-two percent of those aged 25-34 say that they would pay only by card if they could.

In an article released by the 2020Plus social innovation think tank today, Mal Fletcher argues that a fully cashless society would be likely to boost personal debt.

“Cashless systems are very convenient,” says Fletcher, “but by removing the substantiality of physical money altogether we would further divorce spending from forethought. Cards on their own make it too easy for us to engage in impulse buying.

The growing number of debt-relief charities, not to mention pay-day loan companies, attests to the fact this is already a problem.

“What’s more, current levels of ID fraud are only possible because of our rising dependence on the digital world, including our use of cards. 

 “For all the convenience of contactless and other card systems, cash has the advantage of carrying no information about its carrier. With cash, there’s nothing for criminals to hijack.

Research at 2020Plus indicates that MasterCard has a history of releasing studies promoting cashlessness. This is not surprising given that its product is in competition with cash. 

Using public surveys as a marketing tool is nothing new,” Mal Fletcher says. “This is perfectly acceptable practice, provided that in interpreting the results, governments, businesses and consumers factor in the vested interest of a survey’s sponsor.”

It is far too early to write off cash. MasterCard’s interest in promoting its cashless services should make us wary in the way we interpret this and similar studies. 

Even if we accept MasterCard’s figures, he concludes, we should note that perhaps as many as 56 percent of Brits would like to retain the option of using cash. 

© Copyright with Mal Fletcher

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