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Cashless: we won’t make it that way

To overcome the fear of living without cash, it won’t be enough to refer to the disadvantages of cash and to the advantages of digitalization. Instead, we should take the fears seriously and develop respective solutions.

Nov. 18, 2019|Bernhard Kauer

In the article Eine Welt ohne Schein André M. Bajorat recently wrote about the future of payment transactions.

He writes about the Germans’ affinity for cash:

Germans downright fear the abolition of cash.

And then he proposes to view the problem rationally:

But what if we gave up this emotional relationship with our money? Do we lose anything or do we even win something, if we suddenly have no more cash in our trouser pockets and wallets?

And his solution is:

To have the freedom of choice between cash and no cash everywhere and as soon as possible, as we will certainly undergo a behavioral change towards cashless payments.

In the end he refers to “Sweden as a shining example”:

As a country with a high technological affinity, Sweden positions itself as an expert in living without cash.

I don’t think that the Germans’ fear of living without cash can be overcome that way.

The comparison

A comparison certainly brings home the message. Suppose that your son is afraid to jump off the ten-meter springboard. Then it won’t help to:

The obligation to accept cashless payments everywhere will not help, either. As one of the last mass retailers in Germany, the supermarket Aldi already introduced card payment almost 15 years ago. However, who once stood at the cash desk there this year knows that still enough customers pay in cash, even though they are free to not do so.

The causes are deeper

The root problem is deeper, much deeper. In particular, the comparison with Sweden makes this obvious.

In my opinion, the success of cashless payments in Sweden can only ostensibly be attributed to the fact that there are simply more technophiles. Instead, they trust each other and also institutions significantly more.

Daniel Ek, the founder of Spotify, even says:

The number one thing the whole society is built on is trust, like you can’t screw people over.

This trust in society goes as far as the fact, that in Sweden, each and any tax return is public. Just imagine the reactions in Germany, if a German minister of finance merely suggested this.

In the end, the Germans’ insistence on data protection also originates from a lower trust in society, government, companies etc.

There are certainly enough reasons to be found in aspects such as mentality, culture and history.

The causes

However, when it comes to the Germans’ fear of living without cash, this means that the causes can only be eliminated very slowly, if at all.

Thus, for now it is much more effective to take the concerns seriously and to develop respective solutions for them. Such solutions can then certainly be of a technical nature.

Or as the German Central Bank Bundesbank phrased it some time ago:

Principally it must be pointed out that, despite all innovative spirit, the providers must take into account the populations’ need for data protection, security and confidentiality of payments, as well as for simple and universal usability.

There is nothing left to add.

translated by Susanne on Mar. 9, 2020