March 24, 2023: the day Swe­den abol­ishes cash

The Daily Telegraph - Your Money - - FRONT PAGE -

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’

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