Will There Ever Be A Cashless Society in the United States?
Published 09 Jun 2017
Since the invention of credit cards on 1958, the use of this particular electronic payment system has earned enormous amount of popularity. Due perhaps to its handiness and convenience, most people prefer to shop and pay their bills using ATM, credit and debit cards, over cash. In fact, according to the article Credit Card Debt in the US by Elizabeth Harrison, people carry 2.7 bank credit cards, 3.8 retail credit cards and 1.1 debit cards averaging to 7.6 cards per cardholder (Harrison).
In this regard, possible elimination of cash is being given much attention, ignited by numerous articles particularly Toward a Cashless Society by David R. Warwick. In this article, he proposed an electronic currency which would come about only if operated by the government since it controls the production and circulation of cash; an important benefit of which is annihilation of money-related crimes such as theft, bank robbery and attacks on innocent shoppers, taxi drivers and cashiers. Drug dealing, which is made over cash and other illegal transactions, will be diminished. Streets will be safer and the world will be a better place to live (Warwick).
One positive step toward cashless society, prior to the article, is the program launched by Bank of America in Charlotte, NC, called Quickwave. It involved restaurants and shops in the vicinity of the bank that allowed its 10,000 employees to buy and dine using a Quickwave card which is connected to their credit and debit cards. It is a small card made to fit a key chain and is waved over a blue censor as mode of payments. This process was said to be beneficial to both the customers especially during unavailability of cash and the merchants as additional attraction to their stores (“QuickWave’ card could be step toward cashless society”).
Other forms of non-cash payments are credit and debit cards, ATM’s, prepayment cards and smart cards. Credit card allows customers to buy on installment, thus making it less difficult to pay for various items that they can not possibly buy due to lack of available cash. Debit cards, on the other hand, are good as cash because payment is debited from the account of the customers. ATM’s make cash readily available thus saving constant trips to the banks and are now being used as payment in place of cash. Prepayment cards store value, with the same appearance as that of credit cards and smart cards are somewhat extension of prepayment cards (Griffith).
The spread, however, of the use of these electronic payment system, which slowed further advancement of the cashless society is hindered by some factors. These include economic hurdles, consumer resistance and private concerns (Griffith). According to Lucy Lazarony in her article Life Without Credit Card is Reality to Millions, 54% of Americans with income less than $20,000 a year, 32% under the age 30 and 26% of age 65 and older have no credit card. The startling number showed that the use of credit card is actually a privilege enjoyed not by all (Lazarony).
Another hindrance toward cashless society is consumer resistance or the reluctance of customers to use credit or debit card but still prefer the use of cash simply because they find no advantages in the use of such system of payment. Private concern, among others, might be the greatest hindrance to accomplishing the proposed cashless payment system. The possible loss of privacy which will be brought about by the system operated by the government is another reason for hesitation, the fear of disclosing information about oneself and how one manages his finances. The detailed record of his purchases and payments inspire apprehension. Aside from that, there is a truth that despite the popular use of credit and debit cards, people still love cash and still carry amounts of them in their purses. They still feel better knowing they have money with them instead of plastic.
In addition to the above enumerated hindrances, religious groups associate the use of these electronic payment systems with the mark of the antichrist as mentioned in the book of Revelation of the New Testament. They believe that the microchip being used in these cards is the mark in disguise (Hole).
Given the advantages and disadvantages of the use of electronic payment system, the future of cashless society could not be very far despite the fact that there are doubts if all U.S. Citizens will be able to afford it. A cashless society will not be based on today’s technology. Basing the argument on today’s credit card technology and the internet, there are still many issues that need to be resolved such as internet security and credit card thief. Should a cashless be a reality in the future U.S. society, it should be based on a much advance technology. In spite of the hindrances specified, the popularity and continuous evolution of the system supported by technology, the proposition seems to be nearing its realization. Economic hurdles can be worked out and anxiety over private concerns can be taken care of, cashless society is close on hand.
- Griffith, Reynolds. Cashless Society or Digital Cash.Southwestern Society of Economist. March 1994.
- Harrison, Elizabeth. Credit Card Debt in the US. Capitalist chicks. The New Face of Capitalism. Aug. 15, 2006.
- Hole, Richard. A Cashless Society, True Conspiracies, 1998, Aug. 15, 2006
- Lazarony, Lucy. Life Without Credit cards is Reality for Million.Oct. 16, 2001.Bankrate.co. Aug. 15, 2006.
- Orr, Bill. ABA Banking Journal. March 2006. Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corp. Aug. 15, 2006.
- “QuickWave’ card could be step toward cashless society”. Nov. 21, 2002.
- The Associated Press. Aug. 15, 2006.
- Warwick, David, R. Toward a Cashless Society. The Futurist. July-Aug. 2004.Vol. 38, No.4. World Future Society. Aug. 15, 2006.