The Case For – Or Against – A Cashless Society

The case for (or against) a cashless society

What happens if the physical monetary unit goes away?

Does that mean we’re going down a bad rabbit trail to a place where society should not go?

Is a move toward digital currency like Bitcoin an inevitability?

We’ve got questions, but with no clear answer.

To start, how about we have to look at a couple of points:

  1. The unit of cash itself
  2. The payment process, security and anonymity

While this is entirely way too large to discuss all in one article, let’s start the conversation anyway.

Money, money, money…money!

I don’t know about you, but the sound of The O’Jays’ hit song, “For the Love of Money” provides a great background track.

(Go ahead. Turn it on, I’ll wait for you.)

So, is the move toward a cashless society, a good thing or not?

But first, let’s start from the beginning:

How did we get here?

Related: Your Free Money - 14 Ways To Claim It Now

The history of money

Bartering was the earliest form of money.

I have spices, you have furs – and I want those furs.

So, in exchange, I gave you spices.

The earliest form of actual currency was created by King Alyattes in Lydia, now part of Turkey, in 600BC.

While the infographic here points to some very interesting evolution of money, one thing remains certain:

As technology improves, the way (and what) we consider money continues to change.

When people wonder, “what’s this new e-money/virtual money thing?”...

In fact, the ramp-up to this started way back in 1983, leading us to where we are now, in a Bitcoin world.

The move away from government-led currency

While most people have probably only ever heard of Bitcoin, there are a number of cryptocurrencies out there.

As of July 2017, there were in fact more than 900.

One interesting aspect of cryptocurrencies is that they cannot be manipulated or altered, as most government-backed conventional currency can.

Central banks, as this video explains, have the ability to control physical money, and that’s just not how Bitcoin was designed:

While the value of Bitcoin has recently been hampered and viewed negatively by a number of people, including JP Morgan’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, and the value is certainly starting to fluctuate much like normal currencies, the supply of cryptocurrencies is generally fixed.

That means they are subject to normal supply and demand. There is no worry of someone throwing in an extra 20 million bitcoins, as that can’t happen (as noted above). More below on how these are created:

So, if we’re moving away from physical money…

Should we be worried?

A change for the better?

We’ve discussed the new currency forms popping up, but FinTech (Financial Technology) platforms are leading the way in how money is transferred.

While this change toward using less cash (and increased use of alternative currency) might seem disruptive to those of us who are used to “cold, hard cash”, in some societies, technology is enabling access to banking options like never before.

As an example, in some developing countries in Africa, the CDMA phone has been a revolution for those that either had no bank or were severely underserved by their financial institution. In short, Africans can now use a “basic” phone to conduct their everyday banking. As Quartz noted in 2015, in sub-Saharan Africa, only a third of adults had access to bank accounts.

Plus, the so called “mobile money” space is booming: over $5.8 billion (USD) of payments were processed in 2016.

So, while in North America, Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Paypal (just to name a few) continue to modernize how our transactions are conducted (moving us toward a cashless society), is “progress” inevitable?

Related: Intro to Robo Advisors

Security comes to mind

One of the red flags that is waved around moving to a cashless society is that of security.

You can trust money that you see in your hand. Short of getting that stolen from you, you know you have it and that provides assurance.

Yet, credit cards are still safe, right?

Well, no…not to be a fear mongerer, but it’s disturbingly easy to steal a credit card number from someone using inexpensive technology. While many banks have protection to ensure that you don’t pay for any stolen cards, it is – at the minimum – an inconvenience.

Thankfully, there are products out there like Signal Vault that can protect you.

Further, even Bitcoins aren’t entirely safe. In 2014, Mt. Gox, the world's largest bitcoin exchange, was hacked and some $460 million worth of Bitcoin was taken.

Now, I don’t want you to put on your tin hat…there are always risks associated with any form of monetary value, unless you’re hiding gold in your backyard (and yes, Fred – I know where you buried it, and I’m coming for your gold!).

All that said, banks, credit cards and even companies like Apple and Google are tightening up their payment protocols to keep your “money” safe. The next evolution seems to be going into biometric-backed payments.

Anonymity and money

You might ask, “If you’re not doing anything illegal, what do you need to pay for things anonymously?”

Some people – myself included – are concerned with where the “data” world is going.

How is my personal data being used? Is a company selling the fact that I sent money once a month to Aunt Martha? Do I have rights when it comes to that data, or if I want to use their service, do I have to take it?

While data privacy is a whole other matter, in North America, this is certainly a hot debate.

With respect to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, this is where it is stronger than perhaps conventional payments. While some people think these are totally the way to protect yourself, beware, it’s not anonymous, according to Bitcoin.org.

So, if you’re looking for a silver bullet, I’m not sure there is one...yet.

Now, while some nefarious people have been able to use Bitcoin for things like the Silk Road website, by and large, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies allow for the exchange of goods and services and it doesn’t always have an “ugly” undertone...

How is the underlying technology being used?

The underlying technology of Bitcoin is called blockchain. Broadly, this technology allows for transactions of all kinds that are recorded on a digital ledger that can’t be corrupted.

This technology is still quite young in the marketplace, but it holds a lot of promise.

Aside from the banking applications you might instantly think of, this technology is also being used in applications like energy, voting, international aid and healthcare, just to name a few.

Related: 31 Money Apps, Products, and Tools You Should Be Using

Where does that leave us?

So, we’ve brought in a lot of different spokes in the wheel here in our discussion of cashless societies.

We can see that technology holds a lot of promise, yet, the concerns remain:

  • Is moving away from governmental currency a good thing? A bad thing? Or just a thousand shades of gray?
  • Do the new forms of transferring money hold promise, or are they just a better mouse trap?
  • Should we just scrap it all and go back to trading furs and spices?

So, what do you think?

Is this progress? Or are we going the wrong way?

Let us know in the comments below.

Disclosure: Some links in this article may be affiliate links. We're letting you know because it's the right thing to do. Here’s a more detailed disclosure on how HTS makes money.

Hot Credit Card Deals This Month:

  • Best AIR MILES Card, 3,000 Mile Bonus, plus first year free
    • 3,000 mile bonus worth $519 in Air Miles flights.
    • Exclusive 25% Miles discount when redeeming for Canada & USA flights.
    • Top earning rate of any card on the market - 1 Mile per $10 spent.
    • Most travel insurance coverage of any travel card on the market.
    • 24/7 Concierge Service and Priority Pass Membership.
    • Annual fee waived for the first year.
  • ​NEW 5x Points on Groceries & Restaurants + 40,000 Bonus Points (worth up to $700)
    • Earn 5 points for every $1 spent at grocery stores, bars and restaurants.
    • The highest earn rate on both groceries and restaurants of any card in Canada.
    • Earn 2 points for every $1 spent on gas & travel and 1 point for every other $1 spent.
    • Earn up to 30,000 bonus rewards points in the first year.
    • Earn a welcome bonus of 10,000 points.
    • $10 monthly fee, instead of an annual fee.
  • 30,000 welcome bonus points (worth $300), plus first year free
    • Earn 4 points for every $1 spent on gas, groceries, restaurants and entertainment.
    • Earn 1 point for every $1 spent elsewhere.
    • Points that can be redeemed for travel - anywhere, anytime, with no restrictions.
    • 24/7 Concierge and access to Scotia Rewards Travel Service.
    • Low $12,000 minimum income.
    • Extensive insurance package.
  • Not sure which credit card is for you? Take this short quiz and find out

Comments

Susan
Susan 's picture

I'm not sure that I will ever jump into using Bitcoin -- I guess I'm still a little hazy on how you earn them. I do like the convenience of sites like Paypal, or using credit cards to complete online shopping. Who knows how things will change in the future? Still, at the present time, I will continue to carry cash!

October 10, 2017 @ 4:05 pm
Maria Weyman
Maria Weyman's picture

Agree to all your points Susan. I doubt I'll ever use Bitcoin. For now, I'm happy using my credit cards, PayPal from time to time, and yes, I try to always carry cash in my wallet.

October 15, 2017 @ 10:33 am
Michelle Knowles
Michelle Knowles's picture

For me, personally, I prefer having cash & using that. I have only a prepaid credit card for things like my Netflix subscription & a few other things. I do have a chequing account & two savings accounts, & I do use my debit card once in a while.

When it comes right down to it, though, I'd much rather use cash & stick with that. For one thing, it's the easiest way to keep track of what I spend & what Inhave left to spend. For another, I know that once the cash I've allotted to certain things is gone, it's gone & I can't spend any more. If I had a credit card, it'd be far too easy for me to get into serious debt & to go crazy with spending. I can't allow myself to do that.

Bartering is something else I make use of. Some of my friends & I have a system of exchanging goods & services, & that's worked out quite well. I've gotten car work done & food, among other things, in exchange for babysitting & housecleaning & other things that I've done for my friends.

In this post you mentioned the secure feeling or having actual cash in hand, or something like that. I can relate fully to that. It's a good, comforting feeling to know that I have actual money on hand. I've been in situations where debit machines were down & couldn't get what was needed, or been broke due to a very low income. So while I'm not a miser or cash hoarder, I am a lot more careful with my money now, & it's a good feeling to know that I have money left at the end of my payday.

Thanks for this post & for reaffirming my own personal conviction to keep on using cash as much as possible.

October 10, 2017 @ 5:57 pm
Susan
Susan's picture

How can I drop a 'Bitcoin' into the bucket of some charitable group bagging my groceries? There are many times when cash is needed for some small transaction.

October 10, 2017 @ 5:57 pm
Rick
Rick 's picture

Always carry cash. Many times have been inline to pay and they say the debit and credit machines are down......2/3rds or more of the line moans and gets out of line. The rest of us pay and head on our way. Also if I come across a yard sale the only thing accepted there is cash.

October 11, 2017 @ 1:34 pm
David
David's picture

I use credit and cash mostly. I think it's good to diversify investments so I am looking into Bitcoin. I think it doesn't hurt to hold a Bitcoin as an investment one but mostly as a way to transfer money between countries without the need of a bank. Any ideas on what the best wallets are to hold Bitcoins?

October 11, 2017 @ 4:02 pm
Maria Weyman
Maria Weyman's picture

Hey David,

I asked and these are three suggestions: Electrum, Bitcoin unlimited, and Bitcoin core.

Please do additional research as I haven't used any of these three personally - and if you can share your findings here, that would be awesome!

cheers

Maria

 

October 15, 2017 @ 10:28 am
Owen @ PlanEasy's picture

One of the most fascinating things about Bitcoin is the supposed "stash" held by Satoshi. Although there is no way to tell for sure it's apparently in the 1,000,000 BTC range. That's currently worth about $5 billion USD.

In the world of supply and demand I couldn't even imagine what would happen if these bitcoins started to move.

October 12, 2017 @ 10:08 am

Post new comment