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EDITORIAL – End of using cash will produce casualties

Cash is becoming obsolete.
Cash is becoming obsolete.

Remember the joy of getting an allowance as a child, and how the jingling of a few coins made your pockets heavy with purchasing potential?

Coins and bills are destined to become more a memory and less a reality, thanks to a rapid shift to digital payments.

In fact, tap-and-pay cards and digital wallets are becoming so dominant that some businesses now reject cash. The fast-food chain Iq Food Co. has five locations in Toronto and Vancouver, none of which accept coins or bills.

It's the same at the two Mad Radish restaurants in Ottawa.

A recent Canadian Press story reported the rapid rise of tap-and-pay methods in Canada: 30.8 per cent of financial transactions in 2016, growing to 39.5 per cent in 2017 and expected to reach 50 per cent in 2018.

The story included a prediction that, by 2030, cash purchases will comprise only 10 per cent of all money spent in Canada.

As we move toward an economy where 90 per cent of financial transaction won't involve cash, the future of funds will unfurl with implications for our day-to-day lives.

Digital transactions are faster, a relief to anyone who has been stuck in a grocery line behind a customer exploring the deep recesses of a pocket or purse in search of the correct change.

Another advantage is that all digital transactions are recorded by our banks and card providers, a boon for our household record-keeping that can be appreciated when it's time to file income tax and give the government our annual account of where the money was spent.

As another plus, the decline of hard currency will be a blow to the black market of service providers who dodge their fair share of taxes by working for cash, no receipts given. It will be more dangerous to wink and ask for under-the table payment when money consists of digitally transferred funds that can be traced by Canada Revenue Agency auditors.

There are also drawbacks.

It's easier for thieves to capture and misuse our financial-card information than it is for them to steal cash from our carefully guarded wallets.

Also, some institutions charge for use of debit and credit cards, skimming a percentage point or two from every transaction.

Some banks currently refuse services to people who don't have sufficient assets and a reliable income, so the push toward cashless will be worrisome for those who are denied the cards that are the passkeys to a digital economy.

Increased emphasis on tap-and-pay transactions also runs the risk of leaving behind the less tech-savvy – seniors, in particular – who can't adapt to the marketplace’s e-payment progression.

There are even some entertainers, including buskers, who pass the hat to collect cash. These aren't tips; coin-and-bill donations are the livelihood that allows their shows to go on. Street performers tend not to take Visa or Mastercard.

Most churches already offer alternatives to cash, allowing congregants to arrange direct-transfer donations on a weekly or monthly basis, but collection baskets are still passed during services, and cash in the basket remains an important part of keeping the church lights on and the clergy paid.

The move to a digital economy has implications that perhaps have not been fully considered. Yes, there are good reasons for moving away from cash, but try explaining them to the neighbourhood kid who set up a lemonade stand at the corner of your street.

 

THE CANADIAN PRESS/ An editorial from Winnipeg Free Press

 

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