Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cash Kronor No Longer King

Sweden was the first country in Europe to introduce bank notes in 1661.
Now it's going further towards getting rid of 'em. Already quite a high-tech nation, it's well along the bank queue towards being cash-free... frustrating those who prefer coins and notes over digital money. In most of its cities, public buses don't accept cash any more. Tickets are prepaid or bought via texting. A small but growing number of businesses only take cards, and some banks (which make money on e-transactions) have stopped handling cash altogether.
That's a problem for elderly people in rural areas who don't have credit cards or don't know how to use them to withdraw cash. The decline of cash is noticeable even in churches - some have installed card readers to make it easier for worshippers to donate.
Notes and coins now only comprise 3% of Sweden's economy.
A strong supporter of a world without cash was once part of Sweden's most successful export commodity, the '70s group ABBA. Björn Ulvaeus: "I can’t see why we should be printing bank notes at all anymore." A cashless society may seem like an odd cause for a guy who made a fortune on Money Money Money and other huge pop hits, but for Ulvaeus it's a matter of security. After his son was robbed three times, he started advocating a faster change to a fully digital economy, if only to make life harder for thieves.
The Swedish Bankers' Association says the shrinkage of the cash economy has made an impact on crime statistics. Bank robberies in Sweden plunged from 110 in 2008 to 16 in 2011,  the lowest level since records began 30 years ago. Robberies of security transports are also down. Less cash in circulation makes things safer, both for the staff that handle cash and also for the public.
Incidentally, Björn's personal wealth has been estimated at approximately $110 million so, regardless of how his country's fiscal policies evolve, he'll still be comfortable as king of the hill!

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