End of cash will pro­duce ca­su­al­ties

Cape Breton Post - - Editorial -

Re­mem­ber the joy of getting al­lowance as a child, and how the jin­gling of a few coins made your pock­ets heavy with pur­chas­ing po­ten­tial? Coins and bills are des­tined to be­come more a mem­ory and less a re­al­ity, thanks to a rapid shift to dig­i­tal pay­ments.

In fact, tap-and-pay cards and dig­i­tal wal­lets are be­com­ing so dom­i­nant that some busi­nesses now re­ject cash.

A re­cent Canadian Press story re­ported the rapid rise of tap-and-pay meth­ods in Canada: 30.8 per cent of fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions in 2016, grow­ing to 39.5 per cent in 2017 and ex­pected to reach 50 per cent in 2018.

The story in­cluded a pre­dic­tion that, by 2030, cash pur­chases will com­prise only 10 per cent of all money spent in Canada.

As we move to­ward an econ­omy where 90 per cent of fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tion won’t in­volve cash, the fu­ture of funds will un­furl with im­pli­ca­tions for our day-to-day lives.

Dig­i­tal trans­ac­tions are faster, a relief to any­one who has been stuck in a gro­cery line be­hind a cus­tomer ex­plor­ing the deep re­cesses of a pocket or purse in search of the cor­rect change.

An­other ad­van­tage is that all dig­i­tal trans­ac­tions are recorded by our banks and card providers, a boon for our house­hold record-keep­ing that can be ap­pre­ci­ated when it’s time to file in­come tax and give the gov­ern­ment our an­nual ac­count of where the money was spent.

As an­other plus, the de­cline of hard cur­rency will be a blow to the black mar­ket of ser­vice providers who dodge their fair share of taxes by work­ing for cash, no re­ceipts given. It will be more dan­ger­ous to wink and ask for un­der-the ta­ble pay­ment when money con­sists of dig­i­tally trans­ferred funds that can be traced by Canada Rev­enue Agency au­di­tors.

There are also draw­backs.

It’s eas­ier for thieves to cap­ture and mis­use our fi­nan­cial-card in­for­ma­tion than it is for them to steal cash from our care­fully guarded wal­lets.

Also, some in­sti­tu­tions charge for use of debit and credit cards, skim­ming a per­cent­age point or two from ev­ery trans­ac­tion.

Some banks cur­rently refuse ser­vices to peo­ple who don’t have suf­fi­cient as­sets and a re­li­able in­come, so the push to­ward cash­less will be wor­ri­some for those who are de­nied the cards that are the passkeys to a dig­i­tal econ­omy.

In­creased em­pha­sis on tap-and-pay trans­ac­tions also runs the risk of leav­ing be­hind the less tech-savvy ¬ se­niors, in par­tic­u­lar ¬ who can’t adapt to the marketplace’s e-pay­ment pro­gres­sion.

There are even some en­ter­tain­ers who pass the hat to col­lect cash. Th­ese aren’t tips; coin-and-bill do­na­tions are the liveli­hood that al­lows their shows to go on. Street per­form­ers tend not to take Visa or Master­card.

Most churches al­ready of­fer al­ter­na­tives to cash, al­low­ing con­gre­gants to ar­range di­rect-trans­fer do­na­tions on a weekly or monthly ba­sis, but col­lec­tion bas­kets are still passed dur­ing ser­vices, and cash in the bas­ket re­mains an im­por­tant part of keep­ing the church lights on and the clergy paid.

The move to a dig­i­tal econ­omy has im­pli­ca­tions that per­haps have not been fully con­sid­ered. Yes, there are good rea­sons for mov­ing away from cash, but try ex­plain­ing them to the neigh­bour­hood kid who set up a le­mon­ade stand at the cor­ner of your street.

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