‘It’s Just Not Right’: Cashless Venues Now Punishing People Using Cash


As the global economy increasingly embraces digital transactions, cashless venues are emerging, and with them, a growing concern over the exclusion of those who prefer or rely on cash. This shift, driven by the convenience and efficiency of digital payments, has sparked significant controversy as it appears to penalize individuals who choose to use cash.

One of the primary concerns with cashless systems is the potential for social and economic exclusion. Many people, particularly the elderly and low-income individuals, rely on cash for their daily transactions. For these groups, the move towards a cashless society can create barriers to accessing essential services and goods. Critics argue that this trend disproportionately affects the most vulnerable segments of society, essentially punishing them for their inability or unwillingness to transition to digital payments​​.

In Sweden, one of the world’s most cashless societies, the central bank has sounded alarms over the fragility of digital-only payment systems. The Riksbank has emphasized the importance of maintaining cash availability to ensure resilience against cyber-attacks and power outages, which can cripple digital payment systems. This concern is echoed in other countries, highlighting the need for a balanced approach that does not entirely eliminate cash​​.

Australia, on the other hand, is rapidly moving towards becoming functionally cashless by 2025. The Australian government and central bank are conducting extensive trials with Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs), planning for a swift implementation once these trials conclude. This has raised alarms about potential overreach and loss of financial privacy, as CBDCs can enable governments to monitor and control individual spending behaviors​​.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently reported that 98% of central banks are exploring or implementing CBDC programs, which could lead to even more widespread adoption of cashless systems.

Proponents argue that CBDCs enhance transaction efficiency and security, but detractors warn of the unprecedented surveillance and control they afford governments over personal finances​.

Critics also point out the risk of digital exclusion, where individuals without access to the necessary technology or digital literacy are left behind. In response, some central banks, like those in Sweden and Finland, are taking steps to ensure that cash remains a viable payment option. These measures include setting up cash depots and legislating the acceptance of cash payments to safeguard against the risks of an entirely digital economy​​.

The debate over cashless societies is not just about technology but also about maintaining economic inclusivity and freedom. The push for digital currencies and cashless transactions must be balanced with protections for those who are not yet ready or able to make the transition. Ensuring that cash remains an accepted and viable option is crucial in preventing the marginalization of vulnerable populations and preserving financial autonomy​.


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