It's been been long considered one of the most progressive countries in the world. Besides an impressive social welfare system, its enviable health care, and free education, Sweden is now going cashless, setting itself apart even further from the majority of the world. For the last few years, the Scandinavian country has been moving toward digital payments only, with an estimated four out of five transactions already being paid electronically or by card.
And though Sweden might be the first country to eliminate paper cash and coins, other countries might just follow in its footsteps. So what would a cashless world look like, exactly?
If you've ever been to a mom-and-pop café, or anywhere in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, then you may have been faced with the cash-only dilemma, which means you know how excruciatingly annoying it is. Imagine never having to walk five blocks to the ATM to take money out ever again. That's what you'll likely experience in Sweden, where an average of 260 credit or debit card purchases are made per person each year. In addition to plastic, popular electronic payment services are also replacing hard cash.
In December 2012, Sweden launched Swish, an app that lets you transfer money from your account with your mobile phone (it's similar in concept to Venmo). The app was developed in collaboration with six of Sweden's biggest banks, and is yet another step in the direction of a cash-free society. Nowadays, almost every retailer accepts card payments, as well as public buses and even Situation Stockholm, a newspaper sold by homeless people.
According to Niklas Arvidsson, an associate professor of industrial dynamics, who spoke to Sweden's The Local, if Sweden does become completely cash-free, it's not likely to happen until around 2030. Here's what that society would look like.
It's Safer Without a Safe
One of the main driving forces for Sweden becoming cashless is that retailers and banks are totally behind the idea. Without the presence of cash, businesses would naturally feel more secure.
Less Bank Robberies
Just how much more secure? The decrease in cash flow has also reduced crime. According to CBS News, the number bank robberies in Sweden dropped from 110 in 2008 to 16 in 2011, and The Local reports that only five robberies were reported in 2012. If cash is completely eliminated, robbers will have to resort to stealing the bank's equipment.
It Saves, Well, Money
One of the biggest reasons for a cashless society is that it, appropriately, saves money. No cash circulation would save cash-handling costs, the total annual net cost of which was estimated to be 8.7 billion SEK (about 1.2 billion USD), or about .3 percent of the country's GDP