Tuesday 8 May 2012

Paving the way to a cashless society

We're well on our way to a cashless society, and I for one can't wait.

Paying for stuff with my phone? Hell yeah, sign me up.

The antiquated idea of carrying around physical tokens of wealth now seems barbaric. A study by Eftpos Australia released in July 2011 reveals that at the time of the whitepaper, 31% of Australians do not carry more than $20 on their person.

A couple of other statistics for you:

  • 46% of Generation Y (you know, that new wave of hipster kids born between 1982 and 1995) carry less than $20 dollars on them at any given time
  • 30% of Australians don't have enough cash on them to pay for groceries, opting to use EFTPOS or a Credit/Debit card instead
  • Generation Y is also the most likely group of people to not actually know how much money they're carrying on them (A staggering 51%)
  • Cash is now only accounting for 30% of payment methods in Australia

Read the paper if you're interested, however I pretty much just spoiled the summary for you. At any rate, is this really surprising? With the proliferation of EFTPOS terminals at Retail and online bill paying/shopping, it really does make a lot more sense to use a card more often than not.

So, why is it that I still get a dirty look that should be reserved for a convicted sex offender when I try to purchase something on my debit card for less than $10?

"Take my damn money, and be happy you got it, you Luddite."

This guy. This guy right here.

In addition to this, there's still businesses out there that have either "$10 minimum" or "$20 minimum" scribbled in hastily written broken English with red Texta on a Post-It note sticky-taped to their archaic cash registers that still require the purchase amount to be manually typed in.

Get with the times, shopkeepers. Are you telling me that it's easier for you to stock enough physical dominations of currency to be able to provide change for whatever combination of bills you're given, rather than simply allow the purchases of items summing less than $10? Are the merchant fees really so high that you'd prefer to alienate your customers?

A night out with mates is my worst nightmare. At every single bar or club I go to, I'm given only the ability to pay over the bar with cash. Combine that with my muted wits after a few schooners and I've got $40 in bloody change weighing me down all night. It's ridiculous. I suppose their tactic is to make me spend it on their pokies or jukebox.

Have you seen that MasterCard Pay Wave ad? You know, the one where everyone is buying coffees and paying with their MasterCard by tapping the terminal with it, until one guy pulls out a fifty and is completely halts the flow of the line? Okay, so maybe they exaggerate the point (where would Marketing be without exaggeration?), but the concept is bang on the money.

And, despite having EFTPOS terminals in every freaking cab, taxi drivers really seem to hate the card. I suppose it's 'cause it takes time to clear and they're left without the cash in the meantime. I don't know, nor do I care. It's not my problem. With any luck, the people that paid with EFTPOS a couple of days ago should be hitting your bank right about now, so stop being a jerk about it.

If I had a dollar... I'd have a bunch of old currency I don't want.

You know what I want to see? I want to see a brick-and-mortar shop open up that deals exclusively in EFTPOS and Credit Card transactions. Obviously, it's probably still a little bit impractical to do this, but I'd love to see somebody take a stand and say,

"Hey! We're sick of using cash! It's filthy, heavy and inconvenient. I have to lug all of the coins to the bank once a week, increasing the risk of me getting mugged by a junkie exponentially. I have to constantly stock up with different denominations so I will have the correct amount to exchange for any possible configuration of coins and notes. I've had enough. This shop, from now on, only accepts electronic forms of payment."

They might start a movement. People, curious of the idea at first, would want to know more. They'd learn about the fact that physical currency is an ideal that we can learn to let go of.

Now, I know that cash will be here to stay for a long time (although it is my hope that it won't be always, just not in my lifetime), but I am waiting for a future where physical cash is only a back-up plan and not viewed as a primary way of purchasing goods.

Bring it on.

Until then, I will continue to hassle every shopkeeper that prevents me from using my card to pay for cheap items.


  1. Hear, hear. You know what those little (and I hate to say it, but in my area it always is) Asian shops do when they DO allow you you use EFT for small purchases? They charge you fifty cents for the privilege. They charge me for them charging me. *sigh*

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  2. I like physical money.

    But I also like landline phones, black and white TV's and polio, so clearly I'm just scared of change.

  3. As for Taxi drivers - although there is technically a 'tip option' when you pay by card, I would say that by and large, People paying by card are paying the exact amount, and yet people paying cash invariably tip the driver.

    As a general rule of thumb, I round up to the closest $5 amount with a cab. If the fare ends up as $9.50, the cabbie is only getting a 50 cent tip (better than nothing) but if the fare is 11.50, he's netting a cool $3.50. Not bad.

    Hence, apart from the fact that operating the eftpos in the cab is clearly a hassle, there's a little voice in their head that says: "Blast! No tip today!" whenever they see some plastic.

    1. I feel the same way when I pull out the card for a taxi. "Oh, I guess I can't tip you today, friend."

      But CabCharge does throw 10% extra onto the fare -- and I know it doesn't go to the cab driver -- so it's not like we can be seen as cheapskates looking to reduce the tip.