Will Sweden be the first to go cashless?

  • Sweden likes you to know it was the first country to introduce banknotes back in the 17th century, but now wants to go cashless, given that only 3% of its payments are still in cash. This compares with an average of 9% in the Eurozone and 7% in the US, says the Bank for International Settlements.

    Sweden certainly pioneered Internet banking, not least because so many people are a long way from a bank, even further when the weather is bad or the country is in darkness. One of the main barriers to Sweden being completely cashless is age, as it is really only the over 65s who are still using cash.

    Danske Bank has simply gone ahead and gone cashless, which has neatly removed any security issues, not least bank robberies, and cut their cash handling costs out altogether.

    When asked, Europeans are generally more in favour of cash than the organisations responsible for providing it, but those under 25 are happy to embrace the growing range of alternatives, be it contactless via cards or smartphones, PayPal and Google wallets, and a host of other proprietary solutions.

    Is Sweden the way forward for the rest of Europe? After all, the technologies they are using to take non-cash payments on buses, in taxis, in stores are ubiquitous. Whatever the attitudes of consumers, governments are certainly keen, not least because electronic payments cuts the shadow economy where cash is king and tax due is almost impossible to track down.

    It’s not all good news. Cybercrime is soaring; in Sweden alone, according to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, the number of computerised fraud cases, including skimming, grew to 20,000 in 2011 from 3,304 in 2000.

    One thing is clear, Sweden is a mature European economy and therefore comparable is many ways to other countries in Europe. Cash may not disappear in the foreseeable future, but the decline is now becoming measurable.