Is cash dying? Visa CEO Al Kelly says that certainly is his goal—and you won’t hear any arguments from Millennials, who often view cash as a nuisance. Within 20 years there will be no more ATMs, one expert predicts.
Half of Sweden’s banks already do not keep any cash on hand. Amazon’s brick-and-mortar retail stores only accept credit cards and mobile payment methods. The Department of Motor Vehicles in Louisiana ditched cash last year. Boston’s transit agency has similar plans. India is considering the move nationwide.
There is a downside to progress. Millions of people in the U.S. and billions globally do not have access to credit cards or e-payment systems. In the U.S., some 20 million adults are unbanked, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The number is even higher–40 million–according to an estimate from Operation HOPE, which puts the number globally at 2.5 billion.
These people would be further distanced from the financial mainstream. Yet the same mobile technology that lets a teen go to the mall and spend freely with nothing more than an iPhone can also make it easier for an economically disadvantaged adult to open a bank account and avoid expensive payday lenders.
To make this new world a reality as quickly as possible, a Visa pilot program is offering 50 U.S. Businesses up to $10,000 to stop accepting cash. Mobile technology is a powerful ally in the fight for financial literacy around the world. But we must show the less fortunate how they too can gain access and benefit from a cashless society.