European Countries Trend Towards Cashless Societies

October 24, 2017

No Cash? No Problem in Europe

In the United States and other countries around the Americas, “Cash Only” signs can still be found in many retail establishments; however, the opposite situation can be observed in Sweden, a country where hundreds of bank branches no longer accept or store cash deposits.

Sweden is on track to becoming the first truly cashless society, and other nations in Europe are also moving towards a future where electronic transactions enabled by payment processing networks are the preferred monetary settlement methods.

In 2016, a market research study conducted by payment processing giant Visa showed the extent of cashless electronic transactions in Sweden, where consumers are three times more likely to use debit cards or their smartphones to pay for anything from snacks to groceries and from rent to concert tickets. What is interesting about Sweden is that this is a country where consumer credit is nowhere near as popular as it is in the U.S. Swedish people simply love paying with debit cards and smartphones; they have simply fallen out of love with their national currency, the kronor.

Another European country that seems to be headed towards a cashless future is Greece, and this is surprising due to the restrictions on money transfers imposed by the government during the financial crisis of 2015. Over a period of two years, Greek consumers did not trust electronic transactions because they were handled by the banks they had grown to mistrust; by 2017, however, people in Greece had become tired of handling cash. These days, bank account holders in Greece demand services such as mobile transfers and smartphone wallets that they can link to their banks.

In April 2017, Dutch banking giant ING surveyed 15,000 European account holders to gauge their feelings about using cash in the 21st century. Not surprisingly, one out of every three survey respondents indicated their desire to stop using cash altogether; in fact, many respondents stated that they think payment processing networks are advanced enough to handle 100 percent of all transactions.

What is interesting about the ING survey is that countries such as Italy, Turkey and Poland are where people feel the strongest towards a cashless future. These happen to be the nations with the highest incidence of money laundering and corruption, which may explain why their citizens feel that doing away with cash will improve the current situation by removing temptation and forcing greater transparency.

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