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Swedes predict 'death' of cash in five years

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Swedes are using less cash. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT
07:25 CET+01:00
Figures from Sweden's central bank suggest that coins and banknotes could be almost gone from Swedes' wallets in five years, according to a report by Sweden's public radio broadcaster.

Last year Sweden introduced a series of new banknotes replacing its old kronor notes. But figures suggest these too could be gone from circulation in half a decade if the development towards a cashless society continues.

The Nordic country has already earned a global reputation for its cash-free culture. Cash transactions today represent no more than two percent of the value of all payments made in Sweden, according to the central bank (Riksbanken).

And a report by Swedish Radio on Friday estimates that the figure will drop to below 0.5 percent within the next five years – a trend welcomed by the majority of retailers, banks and card companies.

“Sometimes you have to learn new things. It's a little awkward for a transitional period, but I think it's going to be so simple that you pretty soon realize that this is a lot easier and better than having cash,” said working environment ombudsman Krister Colde of the Commercial Employees' Union (Handels).

However, Riksbanken's experts believe the trend may not be moving as fast as it seems.

"About 20 percent of all payments over the counter are still made in cash. (...) We think that cash will stick around until the 2030s," press spokesman Fredrik Wange told the TT newswire.

Earlier this week a study by Visa suggested that Swedes use their debit cards three times as frequently as most Europeans, making an average of 207.1 payments per card in 2015, compared to France where the figure was 141.7.

The spread of debit cards has had a profound effect even on the street level with fruit and veg traders and even buskers and retailers of homeless magazines accepting cards or electronic payments using the popular Swedish smartphone app Swish.

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However it comes amid ongoing campaigns highlighting concerns about the move towards a near-cashless society.

Critics lay into banks for closing rural cash machines or refusing to handle cash at certain branches, while some stores and events are also legally banning any non-card payments.

“It is happening at a furious rate. And it's important to many older people to be able to use cash. I mean, today it is legal tender and you have to be able to use it until parliament decides otherwise,” Christina Tallberg, chairwoman of Swedish pensioners' organization PRO, told Swedish Radio on Friday.

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