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Money is great, but cash isn’t. For many, handling paper bills is a huge burden. They don’t stand up well to wet conditions, and the old ones always smell weird. That’s why Sweden is trying to eradicate tangible cash. The country was able to reduce circulation by a whopping 40-60 percent in just six years. At the moment, there is only about $8.6 billion moving around the region, compared to $12.2 billion previously.

Attempting to pay with traditional bank notes in the area will cause problems and give off bad vibes. The use of cash is dwindling so fast that cops get suspicious when people transact with bills (note: making it rain in Sweden will probably raise red flags). “Cash is still an important means of payment in many countries’ markets, but that no longer applies here in Sweden. Our use of cash is small, and it’s decreasing rapidly,” said Niklas Arvidsson, an industrial technology and management researcher at Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

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Swish

The country didn’t become the king of cashless trading overnight. In 2011, the local government introduced a payments app called Swish. Created by major Swedish and Danish banks, the platform allows locals to make peer-to-peer (P2P) transactions in real-time. Similar services are available in other parts of the world, but they aren’t widely used and lack compatibility with everyday stores and services. In Sweden, people are using the mobile app like they would cash. To promote the cashless lifestyle, the government removed the minimum spending rule for EFTPOS and credit card transactions.

The authority’s initiatives seem to be working. Around four out of five payments in the area are electronic. Surprisingly, some banks recently started rejecting cash at the teller. Locals still need banking services to store money, acquire loans and establish credit. But for basic transactions, like withdrawals and transfers, people rely on the Swish app.

To educate children on the new technology, prepaid debit cards are issued for weekly allowances. Parents periodically load funds into the card, and it’s up to their little one to manage the money. Even churches are in on the cashless action. Some religious institutions only accept donations digitally in order to comply with the latest government standards.

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Staying Safe Without Cash

Sweden is pushing for electronic practices because it’s safer for local citizens. Without cash in circulation, organized crime syndicates are less likely to store large amounts of cash under their mattresses. Robberies are also minimized, and anyone can carry thousands of dollars digitally without fear. “Bus drivers were getting attacked for their fares and so Stockholm banned cash on public transport,” highlighted Arvidsson. “There was also a spate of bank robberies, so four years ago, the banks began to move away from cash. Now, five of Sweden’s six big banks – all except Handelsbanken – operate cash free wherever possible.”

In Africa, people are going cashless for the same reasons. In regions where locals don’t have access to reliable banking establishments and crime rates are at an all-time high, people have turned to mobile payments as a necessity to keep their hard-earned money secure. Sweden just might be the first industrialized to go all the way in eradicating the use of tangible money.

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