• Sweden edition
 
Swedes set for cashless future
Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Swedes set for cashless future

Published: 08 Dec 2013 08:48 GMT+01:00
Updated: 08 Dec 2013 08:48 GMT+01:00

Peter, 55 years old and homeless, is standing at a Stockholm supermarket, carrying the two objects that help him make a living: a stack of magazines and a debit card reader.

The magazine, Situation Stockholm, is sold by the poor to bring in some income, but for Peter and many other vendors the problem in recent years has been that cash is falling out of use, and passers-by often don't have 50 kronor ($7.80) at the ready to buy a copy.

The card reader, provided by the magazine's publishers, has come to the rescue, and Peter, who asked not to be identified by his last name, couldn't be happier.

"Customers can follow every step so that they don't feel cheated," he said, showing the functions of the device. "I'm impressed by this thing. It's cool."

Mattias Strömberg, a potential customer taking a look at Peter's magazines, welcomed the opportunity to pay with cards: "I never carry cash around. No one does anymore."

In Sweden, only 27 percent of retail sales are made with cash, according to a recent paper by the European Central Bank. If online sales were included, the figure would be even smaller.

All the Nordic countries are rapidly on the way towards a cashless society, deepening an existing divide between north and south in Europe. In Greece and Romania, for example, 95 percent of transactions are still in cash.

Not everyone in Sweden welcomes the transition. In a celebrated case, a would-be robber entered a Stockholm bank, but had to leave empty-handed, discovering that he had picked a cashless bank.

Criminals are not the only ones affected. From Copenhagen to Reykjavik, the cashless society has profoundly changed the ways people live.

Everything from hot dogs to taxes is paid for online, with bank cards, or by SMS. Many buses refuse cash -- confounding foreign tourists -- and the newly opened ABBA Museum in the Swedish capital also only accepts credit and debit cards. 

"Neither retailers nor banks have any obligation to accept cash," according to the nation's central bank, the Riksbank.

"We'll probably not see a totally cashless society in the near future, but a society where cash is reduced to a minimum and used in very few situations, is probably quite realistic," said Niklas Arvidsson, a researcher at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, who published a study on the topic earlier this year.

The big winners are the banks and card companies, but in the end, all of society could benefit as cash is more expensive to handle than electronic payments, he said.

But the elderly and rural citizens, as well as the socially marginalised with high credit risk such as the long-term unemployed, would have problems if cash disappeared completely, he argued.

"If our society goes in this direction, that you basically can't do anything at all without access to debit or credit cards ... it might even create further marginalisation and exclusion," said Leif Öberg, development director at the Swedish Salvation Army, which offers support to people in need.

"The absolute and almost immediate effect ... is that you can't travel by bus. What we see at the other end of the spectrum is that the most marginalised get around on foot ... or travel (by metro) without a ticket, but you can't do that on the bus. That is the stark reality for people today," he added.

There exists an alternative -- pre-paid debit cards that people can later recharge at convenience stores, but with a minimum of 200 kronor ($30) even this can pose difficulties.

Arvidsson also warned that consumers' rights might be at risk as the electronic trail every card user leaves behind could be misused for marketing purposes.

"There is a concern that today's laws are insufficient," said Arvidsson.

"The authorities must ensure that the information is used correctly."

Other losers in the cashless game are smaller shops struggling with high card fees, especially after Sweden implemented a new law in 2010 that banned imposing surcharges on customers for paying with cards.

That means the retailers themselves must deal with the fees to the card-issuing companies -- up to 2.50 kronor per transaction, plus an additional percentage fee.

Since 70 percent of all retail transactions in Sweden are by card, both debit and credit, it adds up to a sizable sum.

Retailers include the fee in the prices of their products, but for smaller shops it's a problem because they don't have the economies of scale and thus have a hard time keeping prices low.

For reasons such as these, Swedish money is not about to go completely virtual.

The Riksbank, which having been founded in 1668 is one of the world's oldest central banks, still plans to launch new banknotes and coins in 2015.

"We believe cash will continue to exist in the near future. We can't foresee it disappearing completely," said Christina Wejshammar, head of the banknotes and coins division at the Riksbank. "It all depends on how we act as consumers."

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Opinion
'Why were we kept in the dark for years?'
The submarine hunt is now in it's sixth day. Photo: TT

'Why were we kept in the dark for years?'

Military expert Johanne Hildebrandt tells The Local that the biggest question in the Stockholm submarine hunt hasn't been answered yet - why don't we know more about the "other operations" from the last few years? READ  

Business & Money
Nordea banks big third-quarter profit gain
Nordea's Chief Executive Christian Clausen. Photo: TT

Nordea banks big third-quarter profit gain

Swedish bank Nordea announced on Wednesday a sharp rise in third quarter profits despite the economic slowdown and major outlays for an IT overhaul. READ  

National
Knutby priest faces early release from prison
Knutby in eastern Sweden, the scene of the murder. Photo: TT

Knutby priest faces early release from prison

A former priest in eastern Sweden who was sentenced to life in prison for organizing the murder of his wife has had his sentence reduced. READ  

The Local List
Eight things to love about renting in Sweden
Apartments in Sweden are compact. Photo: Shutterstock

Eight things to love about renting in Sweden

A housing crisis means that short-term sublets are the norm in major cities and rent regulation rules are frequently flouted. But this week, The Local's decided to look on the bright side of renting an apartment in Sweden. READ  

Opinion
'Sweden will see Russia as a threat again'

'Sweden will see Russia as a threat again'

The Local speaks to one of Europe's leading security experts about why social media meant the Swedish military couldn't keep their 'submarine' search a secret and how she believes the country will ramp up its security against Russia. READ  

National
Stockholm suicide bomb investigation closes
The suicide bombing took place in 2010. Photo: TT

Stockholm suicide bomb investigation closes

Sweden's Security Service (Säpo) has announced that it will stop its core investigation into a suicide bombing in Stockholm four years ago. READ  

Stockholm 'sub hunt'
Military heads into 'new phase' in sub search
The search for the missing 'submarine' is now in its sixth day. Photo: TT

Military heads into 'new phase' in sub search

UPDATED: A press conference on the search for a suspected foreign vessel in Swedish waters revealed that the Armed Forces would be heading into a new phase on Wednesday. READ  

Lifestyle
Vasa ship cannon blasted in Sweden
The bronze replica cannon. Photo: Beth Dacey.

Vasa ship cannon blasted in Sweden

A replica of one of the cannons present on Stockholm's iconic Vasa warship when it sank in 1628 is being tested for the first time in central Sweden. READ  

Health
Swedish farmers contracted swine flu
Swine flu can spread between pigs and humans. Photo: TT

Swedish farmers contracted swine flu

A human strain of the swine flu virus normally only found in pigs was discovered in Sweden earlier this year, the country's Public Health Agency has revealed. READ  

Stockholm 'sub hunt'
Sweden ready to use force to surface sub
Photo: TT

Sweden ready to use force to surface sub

Sweden's military says it has no plans to downsize the search for a possible foreign submarine and is prepared to force any suspect vessel to the surface of the sea, "with armed force if necessary". READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Sub hunt: Day-by-day
National
Sub hunt: Stockholm islanders share their fears with The Local
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
National
Get 20% off unique Swedish homeware
National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Blog updates

21 October

Denna & den här (The Swedish Teacher) »

"?Denna? or ?den hr?? Swedish language students often ask question about different pronouns. One pronoun that especially..." READ »

 

19 October

Getting it (Blogweiser) »

"Follow Joel Sherwood on FB Few watch baseball in Sweden. This is excellent when your team loses..." READ »

 
 
 
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
National
Sweden deploys troops over underwater threat
Gallery
People-watching: October 19th
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: October 17th - 24th
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Lifestyle
Sweden's The Bridge to become 'more Danish'
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
What's on in Sweden: October 10th - 17th
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Society
My Swedish Career: A French fashionista in Sweden
Society
Swede's anti-bully Facebook tale goes viral
Society
Have you seen Sweden's viral subway cancer campaign?
National
Isis: Swedes linked to Turkish prisoner swap
National
Should Swedes be banned from buying sex abroad?
Gallery
Fredrik Reinfeldt's leaving presents
National
Five Swedish TV shows you shouldn't miss
Gallery
A tool belt, a casserole, and a book. Fredrik Reinfeldt's parliament gifts
TT
Lifestyle
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
TT
National
Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve
Gallery
Property of the Week: Gamla Enskede
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Politics
Ten new minister faces you should know
Tech
First womb transplant baby in world born in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 5th
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

999
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN