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MONEY

Cashless Swedes still sitting on old kronor worth billions

Old Swedish kronor worth 7.7 billion ($906 million) are still out there in Swedes' piggy banks, wallets and mattresses, according to the country's central bank, despite them having been declared invalid.

Cashless Swedes still sitting on old kronor worth billions
An old 100-kronor note and a new 50-kronor note. Photo: Adam Wrafter/SvD/TT

The old one-krona, two-kronor and five-kronor coins, as well as the old 100 kronor and 500 kronor banknotes, ceased to be legal currency on June 30th this year, after being replaced by new designs.

It followed the old 20, 50 and 1,000 kronor bills also being replaced by new banknotes a year ago.

In an effort to get people to hand in their old cash, the Riksbank, Sweden's central bank, launched a campaign last year featuring “Wanted” posters on billboards, in newspapers and in digital channels.

But according to its latest estimate, 5.9 billion kronor's worth of old notes and 1.8 billion kronor's worth of old coins are still missing.

Since October 2015, when the money changeover began, 90 percent of the old banknotes have been handed in, but only 35 percent of the coins, according to the Riksbank.

It is still possible to hand in the old one, two and five kronor coins to a bank until August 31st 2017. The deadline for handing in the 100 and 500 bills is June 30th 2018.

Even if you miss those deadlines, you can still send the notes to the Riksbank, but it will then cost 100 kronor to get them deposited.

Exactly what Swedes are doing with all the missing cash is not clear, but there's a good chance that much of it is hiding in drawers in the famously cash-averse country.

Sweden is one of the countries that has come furthest towards becoming a cash-free society, with cash transactions accounting for just two percent of the value all payments.

Research commissioned last year by the credit firm company Visa suggests that Swedes are not only using payment cards more often than people in most other nations, they are also using them for smaller amounts of money.

According to Visa, the average card purchase in Sweden amounts to 301 kronor, while the European average is 459 kronor. People living in Sweden also use their cards more regularly than those living in all other countries except Finland, the study suggests.

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What happens if you don’t pay a bill in Sweden?

Sweden's Enforcement Authority is responsible for collecting unpaid debts, fines, and declarations of bankruptcy. So, what happens if an unpaid bill reaches the Enforcement Authority, and can you do anything if you have a black mark on your record?

What happens if you don't pay a bill in Sweden?

What happens when you have a bill?

Usually, if you have a bill in Sweden, you will receive an invoice (faktura) either digitally or via post, which will include details such as the amount owed, who to pay and the date payment is due (förfallodatum).

If you don’t pay the invoice in time, the person you owe money to may turn the case over to inkasso, or a debt collection agency, who will again send you an invoice for payment, plus the agency’s fee.

If this invoice goes unpaid, the Enforcement Authority will get involved.

The Swedish Enforcement Authority, Kronofogden in Swedish, is responsible for collecting unpaid debts. It does this by providing advice and support to those who are unable to pay their debts, as well as helping creditors – such as, for example, landlords whose tenants have not paid their rent.

The debt collection agency will pass unpaid bills on to them, and you may receive a betalningsanmärkning or black mark on your credit record.

Before you receive a black mark, however, you will first receive an ansökan om betalningsföreläggande from the Enforcement Authority. If you pay this in time, your debt will not be registered as a betalningsanmärkning.

There are some types of payment where you can receive a betalningsanmärkning without the bill going through a debt collection agency first. These are usually payments owed to the state, such as unpaid tax, unpaid student loan repayments or unpaid municipal parking fees.

You are unlikely to come into contact with the Enforcement Authority unless you miss or forget to pay a bill.

What happens if you get a black mark?

A black mark can have pretty major consequences – it can stop you from hiring a car, getting a credit card, borrowing money (including getting a mortgage), taking out a phone contract or even renting an apartment, as well as barring you from ordering anything on credit or paying via invoice.

This is due to the fact that whenever you apply for a loan or credit in Sweden, the lender will check your credit score (kreditupplysning) to see if there is any risk of you not paying up. Many lenders have a strict policy on not lending to individuals with black marks on their credit score to minimise risk, no matter whether the mark is due to an unpaid phone bill or a missed mortgage repayment.

How can I check if I have one?

You can check if you have a black mark by contacting a credit check company – here is a list of all credit check companies in Sweden. Some may charge a small fee for the service, whereas others offer it for free.

One advantage of checking your own credit score before contacting a lender is that your credit score is not affected when you carry out a check on yourself. 

If, however, a bank carries out a credit check on you, this can affect your credit score – it’s usually not an issue if you carry out one or two checks, but a lot of checks in a short period of time could cause issues.

Can you do anything to remove it?

Unfortunately, no. 

All you can do is wait – a black mark will disappear from your record after three years for private individuals or five years for businesses. 

The best strategy is to avoid getting a black mark on your record in the first place – such as by paying your bills via autogiro (direct debit), keeping an eye on your post (as well as your digital post), and paying for items up-front if possible to avoid invoices, rather than using “buy now, pay later” credit services such as Klarna or Clearpay.

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