Keep the change
By Carmel Fisher, Managing Director
24 February, 2017
You wouldn't think cash — as in notes and coin — would be a polarizing topic. But people have strong views about the value of cash and the role it plays in our lives.
There was a time when cash was considered king. A healthy wallet would be one packed with a selection of notes: some fives, some twenties, and on a good day, a nice crisp $100.
These days few people carry bulging wallets, leading to predictions that digital payments will overtake cash in the coming decade. Cash is about to be dethroned.
In launching Apple Pay, CEO Tim Cook claimed "Your kids will not know what money is". He questioned why people would ever choose to carry cash when there are so many convenient alternatives.
Using an electronic card is certainly easier and quicker at a shop till. Instead of opening a wallet, extracting notes, offering notes, obtaining change, separating the notes from the coins, putting the notes back into the wallet and the coins into the pocket or purse, it's one tap or swipe on an electronic sensor.
Not only is it quicker, but you can receive electronic notification to confirm the transaction, so there is no need for a paper receipt that used to add further bulge to your wallet.
Cash is easy to lose or destroy. Even if you leave your plastic card in your jeans pocket in the wash or lose it while out walking, you'll still have money and be able to access your funds.
In a 2015 UK survey, only ten percent of adults said they always have cash on hand, and seventy-three percent said they either never or rarely carry cash.
Even toy-makers have recognised the growing trend. Hasbro recently released a cashless version of its iconic game, Monopoly, featuring a small ATM that tracks players' available funds.
So maybe we can live without cash, and maybe a cashless era is just around the corner.
But some people vehemently reject the death of cash.
For some, cash equals privacy. With every wave of a phone or swipe of a card, we're giving away valuable bits of information about ourselves.
Investor Jim Rogers recently prophesied the death of cash and total government control of spending. "To control people, governments will increasingly seek to hunt down cash spending. The world is going electronic, and governments are going to be very happy because they can track you and ultimately control you."
On a less sinister note, a British journalist wrote about his love for cash and received overwhelming support from readers.
"Cash is the great leveller. Actual money in the hand teaches us its true value. With cash, what you see is what you have.
Exchanging it demands personal engagement and oils the wheels of a community. At a shop till or pub bar, the exchange of cash takes time; it involves a flutter of physical contact, eye meeting eye and a reminder that trade is human.
Impulsive gifts of money become impossible without cash; no more helping a fellow passenger with a bus fare, no loose change to charity, the poppy seller, a busker or beggar. Cash promotes independence and engagement. A cashless society is a joyless one indeed."
Before virtual money can dethrone cash, issues including the tendency to overspend, vulnerability to hackers and technology malfunctions will need to be addressed.
Meantime, the cash fan club is determined that more of us keep the change.