How to go cashless today? And would you really want to?

So, it’s 2018, and there are more ways to pay retailers and restaurants than there were 20 years ago. It seems like the smartphone app has replaced the chequebook in some respects, while debit and credit cards continue to be used now more than ever.

Has cash taken the back seat? Is it now obsolete to say the least? There are, of course, two camps.

TREND OR HABIT?

Some modernizing restaurants like Flock in Toronto, have proclaimed their intent to go fully cashless, adorning a 'We’re cashless. Debit and credit welcome' sign to their front door. While others, perhaps sensing a fad, glue their 'Cash Only' sign at the entrance in protest of modernity.

More and more of society’s financial networks are digitising payments. You can go through your whole day without using cash by purchasing a single transit fare with your card, ordering lunch through food apps like Ritual or Uber, and gaining access to a theatre with a movie ticket that you’ve already purchased online.

Which camp are you in? Certain businesses and individuals are making the move away from cash, this is for certain. So how would you, as a consumer, make the full transition? And, would you really want to?                   

STICKING TO A CARD

According to Huffpost, Canada ranks first in the top 10 most cashless countries ahead of Sweden and the U.K.

Canada has quite a few credit and debit cards per person, and most of them have the tap function which allows customers to pay kiosks with the simple tap of their charge card. Other attributing factors to Canada's placement at the top of the list include the fact that more Canadians are actually using the feature, and more Canadians are aware that they indeed can use the feature in the first place.

Using plastic is perhaps the easiest and most ‘second-nature’ opportunity to go cashless today.

We’ve already gotten accustomed to using credit and debit cards, but what is new to us is the fact that we don’t really have to sign any proof of purchase receipts anymore, nor do we have to enter in a personal code if a purchase is under $100.

This makes these wireless debit and credit cards precious to thieves, who will either skim the data out of your wallet if they’re within close range, or they’ll steal your card to make small purchases in a short period of time by tapping here and tapping there.

Cards are great to have when you run out of cash, but what happens if you lose your cards or they all get compromised by fault of an online mechanism or retailer? You will be heavily inconvenienced during the interim as you wait to get your cards replaced.

It’s a good idea to have a backup cash fund that could take you through a day, kept somewhere safe in your house, just in case.

PHONE APPLICATIONS

Phone apps, in my opinion, separate the cash camp from the cashless camp, simply because you have to go through a tedious amount of effort to get all your data into your digital wallet.

Major phone companies offer this wallet feature through their software: Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay are all allowing users to go cashless. All you would need to carry would be your phone, and you could pay for things virtually wherever the ‘tap’ function is accepted.

But then again, we get to the part of the story where you go out for dinner at your favourite Chinese restaurant and you walk up to pay your bill greeted by the small –but visible– ‘Cash Only’ sign.

The cashier points you to the ATM in the back, that you approach, to be greeted by the glowing –but jarring– ‘insert your card’ prompt. What on earth are you going to do now?

What even happens when you lose your phone? It's like two birds gone in one fowl swoop.

PREVAILING CONSEQUENCES?

There are a lot of skeptics out there who warn about the downfalls of society's slant towards cashlessness. Some say that relying on digitised exchange leaves you too vulnerable to cybercrime while others think it's the government spying on you.

Others are firm believers in the old school, especially restaurants and concert venues who stick to the ‘cash is king, but we have an ATM’ manifesto. That bond may be too strong to break in some cases.

If you’re linking your debit card to your smartphone or smartwatch to rely on it throughout the day, are you willing to pay for the unlimited transactions account with your financial institution? These are some things to think about.

WOULD YOU REALLY WANT TO?

At the end of the day, it depends on what kind of person you are.

You could keep some cash on you, leave your wallet at home, and just bring your phone out to pay for quick stops at the café or gas station, sure. But you are definitely leaving a paper trail, one that may allow unwanted eyes a peep into your finances, or one that may allow you to track your spending better.

And, if any of the places where you use your accounts are found to be fraudulent or skimming cards, you’d be in trouble for a short bout.

The naysayers believe that our movement towards a cashless society is putting the privacy of consumers at risk. You can see this with every press release detailing a new corporate hacking fiasco.

These hackers prey on the interconnectedness between you, your hard-earned money, retailers, and cashless financial networks.

Cash also helps you stick to a budget and acts as a physical reminder that your funds are running low and that no, you probably don’t need to buy that $10 cappuccino thing on your way home.

If you got a new car would you throw away your bike?

I will leave you with this quote from financial analyst, Brett Scott:

The digital payments industry tries to cast cash as the horse-drawn carriage of payments; but cash is the bicycle, more flexible, resilient and convenient in certain settings, especially informal ones.

People don’t “want” cashlessness any more than they “want” a society where you’re allowed to use cars only. And once people glimpse the dark side of bank digital payments – with surveillance, massive increase[s] in financial cybercrime, and [the] exclusion of people who cannot access the formal banking system – they will probably want cash to remain.