March 24, 2023: the day Sweden abolishes cash
Technology names March 24, 2023 as the day Sweden becomes cash-free. The precision is tongue-in-cheek, but that’s the day the researchers judge it will be more expensive for shops to take cash than payments by card or other digital means.
Retailers agree: half told the researchers that they expected to stop accepting cash within five years.
Such is the rush to get there, though, that handling cash has become a bit of a nightmare.
Our Airbnb guests from abroad are flummoxed by parking meters that don’t take coins (or, as parking apps take over, don’t work at all), by buses that don’t accept cards, and by cafés that have abruptly gone cash-free, as Kafé Kungsgatan, one of Malmö’s finest cafes, did over the summer.
“We were already down to 10pc payments in cash, so it wasn’t really a big step,” the café’s manager, Ola Rasmussen, told me. “It is more simple, both for customers and employees. Then add in the security.”
For the immigrants who make up a sizeable chunk of Malmö and who often prefer cash, both to escape the taxman and because it’s safer, the disappearance of cash is a problem.
Babak, the local bicycle repair man, who for the six years I’ve lived in Malmö has only taken cash, said the only way to bypass the 10,000 kronor (£940) weekly limit on cash deposits at Swedbank’s machines is by using the bank accounts of friends and family.
“Everything’s moving forward quite rapidly,” said Bengt Nilervall, an expert on payments at the Swedish Trade Federation. “Now at the beginning it’s small merchants or cafés that take this step, but soon it will be the larger ones: Scandic Hotels, they take cash in their bars, but they’re trying to stop,” he said.
The outdoor sports shop Alewalds has contacted him about going cash-free. He thinks a major retailer such as H&M will soon take the plunge. Next year he expects Swish, the payment app that allows you to transfer money to anyone instantly using their phone number, to move on to the high street. Nearly seven million
Not welcome: a sign in a Swedish café reads ‘On June 1, we will become cashfree. Simple and safer for our staff’