Four out of five purchases in Sweden are paid electronically or by debit card and with the development of cheaper technology the trend is moving towards a fully cash free society, according to a new report.
“Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia leads the world in terms of cashless trading,” said Bengt Nilervall at the Swedish Federation of Trade (Svensk Handel).
Swedes use their debit and credit cards almost every day--an average of 260 transactions per person per year.
The picture is very different in southern Europe. In Italy, for example, three-quarters of all consumer purchases are still paid for in cash.
“That is due to the low confidence in the authorities and the banking system,” said Niklas Arvidsson, an associate professor of industrial dynamics.
Arvidsson argued that Sweden could become completely cash free but predicts that this development is unlikely until at least 2030.
“The familiarity of cash in the hand could prevent this. A recent Sifo survey showed that 2/3 people consider (the availability of) cash to be a human right,” he said.
Retailers, banks and card companies welcomed the trend with the proviso that customers are able to keep up with developments.
A cash free society would lead to increased security for both staff and customers and would cut cash-handling costs--estimated to be around 8.7 billion kronor ($1.2 billion), some 0.3% of GDP.
Armed robberies are furthermore in decline in line with the reduction of cash use. In 2012, a mere five bank robberies were committed, according to the Swedish Bankers’ Association--the lowest figure in 30 years.
The spread of cards and electronic payments has had a profound effect even on the street level with fruit and veg traders and even retailers of the homeless magazine Situation Stockholm accepting card payments.
The spread of electronic payment systems such as Swish are a further addition to the plethora of alternatives for people to transfer small sums without having to resort to the ATM machine.