According to a nationwide survey, in 2018 only 13% of Swedes used cash for a recent purchase, compared to 40% in 2010. In comparison, 70% of Americans still use cash on a weekly basis according to a study by Pew Research Center.
In Sweden, becoming cashless is the new norm. Christopher Loob, general manager of Urban Deli, stopped accepting cash a year ago and says, “It’s saved us a lot of time in that we don’t have to count cash anymore. There’s hardly been any reaction. Almost everybody has the alternative payment method — a credit card.” Ikea’s Gavle store is completely cash free. The country’s largest department store, Ahlens, is experimenting, slowly making locations cashless. Buses and trains no longer take bills or change. National rail company SJ started allowing customers to use digital tickets on microchips implanted in their hands.
Sweden’s rapid acceptance to technology isn’t new. The country is considered a pioneer in digital technologies. Claire Ingram Bogusz, a researcher at the Stockholm School of Economics, says, “Ordinary Swedes are not concerned at all. The convenience of having your bank account, your money at your fingertips and increasingly on your smart watch vastly outweighs any concerns that they have about security or about being tracked.”
There are some concerns from people with disabilities, elderly, and newly arrived refugees who struggle with digital transactions.
A parliamentary committee is studying the impact of Sweden’s cashless movement. Lawmakers are exploring how a country could handle digital payments in the event of a hacking or power failure. Last year, the government issued a leaflet to all Swedes advising them to push cash aside in case of a national crisis.
Fun fact: Sweden’s national bank is testing out a new state-issued digital currency, the e-krona, independent from global digital payment systems like Visa and Mastercard.
Image Source: MaltaToday