Beware War on Cash

With the many battles waged in the war on cash, with each new campaign tempting consumers to be “cash-free and proud,” strong statements about the downsides of a cashless society have often been left to the fringe press. So we applaud the more mainstream The Guardian newspaper for its recent commentary, “Why We Should Fear a Cashless World.”
A major premise of the piece is that the war on cash is being conducted simultaneously with a shadow war on choice, privacy and payments independence. Yes, contactless payments and mobile wallets have established a new benchmark in progress and payments technology. As we progress, though, the payments industry must not forget that people still want the freedom to choose their payment options and countless of them worldwide choose cash.
Convenient, simple, private and easy-to-use, without being dependent on anyone else. While that entire list helps describe why people choose cash, the same cannot be said of cashless alternatives, some of which are directed solely at eliminating cash completely.
As observed in The Guardian commentary, a war on cash and consumer choice will not be without its causalities should a cashless society come to pass:
  • “In a world without cash, every payment you make will be traceable. Do you want governments, banks or payment processors to have potential access to that information? The power this would hand them is enormous and the potential scope for Orwellian levels of surveillance is terrifying.”
  • “It will hand yet more power to the financial sector in that banks and related fintech companies will oversee all transactions.”
  • “Cash, on the other hand, empowers its users. It enables them to buy and sell, and store their wealth, without being dependent on anyone else.”
Echoing another point made in The Guardian piece, nothing in this blog post is meant to suggest people abandon cashless payments, take their money out of the bank or do anything other than choose whichever payment method works best for them in any given situation.
The point is: people should have options and the freedom to choose. Beware the war on cash simply because it pushes consumers to one choice of payment and one choice only. Cash gives consumers more options, keeping people free from being totally reliant on payments systems and cloud servers in another state when all you want to do is hand two dollars in cold hard cash to the convenience store clerk, who’s standing three feet away, so you can walk out with a cup of coffee. Moreover, it’s complete rubbish to suggest that only criminals have an interest in the privacy that cash purchases afford. Many good, decent and law-abiding citizens simply aren’t comfortable with every aspect of their life being tracked, parsed and potentially being shared by big data.
At Cardtronics, we believe cash continues to enable financial inclusion, empowerment, privacy and security for the consumer. While we have a vested interest in healthy cash usage, we also understand many consumers will choose to adopt a variety of payment methods, including cashless, based on their personal preferences.
What matters most is that people have a choice to make – cash or cashless – because the people who earned the money have also earned the right to spend it in whatever way works best for them.
Nick Pappathopoulos
Director of Public Relations

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