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The Almighty Buck

How Feasible is a Cash-Less Society? 617

vocaljess asks a question that has been on many a mind over the past decade, if not longer: "I just today realized that it has been over a week since I physically handled cash money. Due to the use of checks, debit cards, online shopping, automatic bill pay, direct deposit, etc, my family operates on a cash-less basis in the vast majority of our business transactions. With more and more establishments accepting credit/debit cards, how many others are heading the same way?" Are the advantages of a cash-less society really all that advantageous? One of the largest proposed advantages of a cash-less society is one of limited-theft, well even though money in a cash-less society wouldn't be tangible, it's no less theft-proof...it just takes a theif of a different calibur to pull it off. Do you feel we are heading toward a cash-less society? Do you think if such a thing were to happen we'd be any better off than we are today?

"Think about this: if the cumulative value of everything in the world were expressed in measures of gold, which theoretically backs the majority of world currencies, does enough gold physically exist to back the paper money value, or has the paper money itself become valuable?

And what about this: how is it that the people who depend upon cash are usually in the middle of the financial spectrum, neither the poorest nor the richest? In most extreme poverty situations, transactions are based on barter. For most middle class people and above, transactions involve checks, credit, and electronic fund transfers. For the working poor, most transactions are done in cash. How does all of this add up to the trend toward a cash-less society, where money is nothing more than numbers in a computer transferred from one account to another, to another? How far off is that future?"

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How Feasible is a Cash-Less Society?

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  • by suso ( 153703 ) on Monday September 24, 2001 @12:29PM (#2341476) Homepage Journal
    Those bastards at Steak-n-Shake will never switch to accepting non-cash methods of payment.
    • The real question isn't whether it's feasible or not. The fact is that it may becoming inevitable. It won't be long before a $500 office printer can produce counterfeit currency that will fool anyone who doesn't have special equipment and at appear page cost that allows U$5 to be printed en mass.

      The whole point of cash is that anyone can take a bill and know it's worth X amount. If high quality counterfeits become so prevalent that every other bill taken to the bank is a fake then it will mean a near collapse of the economy.

      I.e. Rumors are still going around that using the government mint in one country to produce counterfeits that could then be dumped on an opposing state was considered as a possible military strategy in WW2. Too bad they all preferred TNT, C4 and Hydrogen bombs.

      So as the cost and logistics of producing those counterfeits which fool the naked eye goes down the prevalence of cash alternatives will grow. Eventually businesses will start refusing to accept cash. I.e. In Jamaica most shops accept US, UK and Canadian money. However many will not take a US $500 bill because they don't know what a good one looks like.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        60 minutes did a special report on that rumor, actually. The Nazis (non-Godwin Nazis) had secured printing plates and were printing flawless British notes. They used them to support the German war machine and were prepared to dump them en masse into the British economy. Unfortunately they lost the war before they had that chance.

        I wish I could remember the name of the lake that they submerged all the funny money in. It was pretty neat how the researchers went down with manned subs and retrieved the papers.
      • There have been several attempts to destabilize the economy of a country by flooding it with counterfeit notes - Laos in the 1960s comes to mind. Germany was planning to ruin the U.K. pound the same way in WW2 but never got around to it.

        I live in a mainly cashless society now. In Canada we have a nationwide debit card system that all the banks and 99% of businesses participate in. We still have the option to pay cash for things, but with fewer businesses taking anything larger than a $20 bill (counterfeiting problems), this is an increasingly awkward option.

        Yes, the banks take a cut. They always do. They view it as charging for a service, and, for now, I accept that. If I didn't have the option of using cash I'd have to reconsider.


  • by Drunken_Jackass ( 325938 ) on Monday September 24, 2001 @12:29PM (#2341478) Homepage
    I like cash. I also like paper. I'll bet i'm not the only one.

    When it comes right down to it - there are a lot of intangibles that using cash provides - plus, is it really faster to swipe, enter a PIN and wait for authorization, than it is to get $2.15 change from a 5?

    Me thinks not.
    • I like cash. I also like paper. I'll bet i'm not the only one.

      Nope. Lots of people love to feel their money in their hands, love to count it, love to smell it, etc. A buddy of mine keeps all his money he intends on spending in a month in cash form on him at all times.

      I think it's a matter of preference though. Personally, I use my Visa CheckCard or my PayPal account for just about everything. Paychecks go in the bank, and anything that comes out can come out electronically.

      99% of what I buy can be paid for by visa, and I like leaving myself a clear record of what I spend money on. Sure, I have to hit the atm from time to time (the anonyminity of cash is nice for certain purchases)... but I've probably made it through a month before without spending more than $40 of actual green cash (drug expenses aside).

      So, I think it's a matter of preference. Some people like the modern cashlessness. But I think the feel of money in a person's hand is powerfull enough that we won't be entirely cashless for a long time.
    • by Old Man Kensey ( 5209 ) on Monday September 24, 2001 @01:15PM (#2341820) Homepage
      The simple fact of life is, things tend to heterogenize. We'll always have people who live in the rarefied strata of the super-rich and never handle their own money (cash or otherwise). We'll always have the working poor who deal (and often get paid) entirely in cash day-to-day.

      We're at about the midpoint of the transition, I'd say. There are about as many places that won't take your Visa card as won't take the $20 in your wallet (or at least will give you grief over it, like a friend got the other day at Best Buy). But there's still the impetus of "legal tender" to keep cash around.

      I lived in a pure-cash economy for about 3 years. I was moving and changing jobs, and closed my bank account. Then as I was about to open a new one, the bank I was moving to got swallowed up by Wachovia, so I held off. By the time I got around to it again, I didn't feel like going through the bother. (I finally had to when the company I was working for got bought by EA and my paychecks started being drawn on Wells Fargo.)

      My co-workers who have always had credit cards, checks and ATMs don't understand how one can live in the "cash economy" without sacrificing quality of life, but it can (mostly) be done.

      The biggest hurdle is things that require a reservation. If you travel you're going to have to resign yourself to paying up-front for your airline ticket and playing Hotel-Motel Lotto when you arrive (unless you're staying with friends or family). Renting a car will also be off-limits to you unless you have a couple of thousand dollars to spare for the duration as a deposit.

      Apart from that, you really don't notice much. Sending money through the mail (to pay bills, for example) will involve getting a money order from the post office, which is in the neighborhood of a dollar per MO -- and USPS money orders have the advantage that a receipt is presentable in court as prima facie proof of payment. Getting a loan can be a little trickier if you have no previous loan history, but you can use landlords as references. Also, your utility history will most likely show up on your credit history, especially if you have a cell phone. And speaking of utilities, you may have to give them deposits before they will start service, but these are usually payable in installments.

      You won't be able to buy things instantly online, but most places will be happy to bill you or ship after receiving payment.

      If you can forego instant gratification and avoid things like needing to rent a car, there's nothing preventing most Americans from living a pure cash lifestyle.

  • by pOs*x ( 254850 ) on Monday September 24, 2001 @12:29PM (#2341480)
    It's called "post-secondary education". They take all your money for tuition, and you live cash-less for many years. It's not as great as you make it out to be!
  • by typical geek ( 261980 ) on Monday September 24, 2001 @12:30PM (#2341484) Homepage
    When the lower class sorts (you know, Joe Sixpack and friends) amuse themselves, cash often plays a part. You can't stick a dollar bill in a stripper's thong with a debit card, you can't buy marijuana with a credit card, pool games take quarters, and most bars only take cash.

    Remember, just becuase you live online and buy porn online doesn't mean Joe Sixpack does.

    • Do you seriously believe that only "working class" people go to strip clubs, smoke pot, play pool and drink at bars??? I've seen plenty of luxury cars parked outside of strip clubs and bars.

    • Good point. I forgot about strip clubs...I guess I haven't been to one in longer than I thought :)

      Hey, us 'higher' class folks need to unwind every now and then too.
    • Just because I live online doesn't mean I prefer to use a card. When I go out (which I do indeed do sometimes) I prefer to use cash. It's quicker, simpler, and anonymous. And no, anonyminity isn't just for illegal means, otherwise why would we care if the government/our ISPs/the FBI kept track of our web-browsing habits. For me it's about privacy for the sake of privacy. I don't want to give it up now, because I might need it later.
      • A cashless society would be no more or less anonymous than the current society.

        First off all, your cash purchases *can* be tracked, reglardless of the existence of a mechanism for tracking them. For instance, if prior to committing a crime, you purchased a knife, which was used as the murder weapon, from a local store. Suppose the knife you bought from that store was only sold in your area at the store you bought it from. It is a simple matter for the police to track you down. They simply ask the store personnel to describe the person or persons who bought a similar knife in the last few days... it helps if they already have a picture of you, of course. :)

        Now, secondly, it could be possible to use your credit or debit card to purchase a "smart card" that just contains a certain dollar amount and no identifying characteristics...such cards in widespread use in Europe.

      • Just because I live online doesn't mean I prefer to use a card. When I go out (which I do indeed do sometimes) I prefer to use cash. It's quicker, simpler, and anonymous. And no, anonyminity isn't just for illegal means, otherwise why would we care if the government/our ISPs/the FBI kept track of our web-browsing habits. For me it's about privacy for the sake of privacy. I don't want to give it up now, because I might need it later.

        tracking your purchases has elements of big brother...

        • marketing folks will love the idea of knowing every little thing you purchase, and when
        • phone records are sometimes used as evidence in court, your purchases may follow
        • abuse will come, spouses tracking each other, watching those purchases of suspicious items, like perfume, fine dining on work nights etc
        • lies, damn lies and statistics. could your unusual purchases get you listed as a suspect criminal?
        • could insurance companies raise your life insurance premiums due to your recorded high caffiene intake?
        • could your employer look up your history and decide you take more holidays than your co-workers?
        • if it's all electronic, where's the security? if I could fake you being at the scene of a crime, or having purchased something illegal or dangerous
        • blackmail... with any type of tracking, blackmail is always a danger, especially when things may be implied and not actually be true, but the implication is enough to ruin another's life...
        Maybe none of this could or would happen, but when humans are involved, it's a risk.
    • not ture, the strip clubs I've ...ahem.. heard of have machine that accepts credit cards, and gives you fake money to tip the girls.

      Not that I know about this first hand or anything, but they ussually come in denominations equivelent to the cost of a lap dance at that particular establishment.
    • So does less and less cash mean less vice?

      Or might we come to the point where we assume that people carrying any cash are no good criminal types?

      I doubt that bars and games will always only take cash. How much nicer might it be to scan a card once and then keep adding charges while the customer keeps drinking or playing? Maybe strip bars could use some form of internal paper "coupons" that they sell you to use on the girls. Of course the idea of a stripper "wearing" only a card reader is somewhat amusing to me.
    • by hexx ( 108181 ) on Monday September 24, 2001 @12:59PM (#2341741)
      When the lower class sorts (you know, Joe Sixpack and friends) amuse themselves, cash often plays a part. You can't stick a dollar bill in a stripper's thong with a debit card, you can't buy marijuana with a credit card, pool games take quarters, and most bars only take cash.

      This is faulty (and plain dumb) reasoning.

      1. You can't stick a debit card in a strippers thong, but you can stick something like a Disney Dollar... strip bars can sell "Stripper Dollars" - good only at their establishment - for money.

      2. You can't buy Marijuana with a credit card? Why not? Maybe it'll be sold as "spicy oregano". Maybe it'll be sold as a "relaxation service" to hide the trail. Cash-less society does not mean one person can't pay another person. People will just learn to hide what was really bought/sold.

      3. Pool games taking quarters and bars taking cash is just silly - I've seen pool tables and vending machines that take credit cards, and bars that take cash only are a relic of days gone by - it's easy (albeit sometimes expensive) for a legitimate business to accept credit cards.

      And of course, the "lower class" abstraction is just silly. I'm not lowerclass, and I go to strip clubs!!!

      • by bughunter ( 10093 ) <bughunter@@@earthlink...net> on Monday September 24, 2001 @01:33PM (#2341946) Journal
        Maybe it'll be sold as a "relaxation service" to hide the trail.

        That's just the problem. It's not hiding the trail. It's not hiding who you bought it from, just what you bought. When the DEA or local law enforcement finally busts the "Relaxation Service" all they need to do is subpoena their Visa records and you can be identified.
        • That's just the problem. It's not hiding the trail.

          Yes, this is correct - it will certainly be easier to bust the chain of drug buyers when a supplier is busted. Of course, inventive people will find ways around this.

          Perhaps people will set up "proxy banks" - where I go in with my cash card and buy $500 in "matchbox cars", then give those "matchbox cars" to my dealer, he gives me drugs, and then goes back to the "proxy bank" and sells the "matchbox cars" (for maybe $450 or something).

          Difficult to prove in this case that anyone was guilty - it was a free market transaction. I bought something, gave (or "traded") it to my friend (or "dealer"), and he promply sold (or "redeemed") it.

        • When the DEA or local law enforcement finally busts the "Relaxation Service" all they need to do is subpoena their Visa records and you can be identified.

          So? There is no federal law against purchasing drugs (since such a law would be unconstitutional). I don't know of any state or local law against purchasing drugs, although such a law would be constitutional. In any case, as long as the company ran a real business in addition to the drug business, there would be no way to separate the drug purchases from the legitimate purchases. Prostitution companies run as exotic dancing companies all the time, they're in the yellow pages, and they take credit cards. I've never heard of someone getting busted for using them.

  • When I need to go to a movie theater or to a fast food restaurant, and in amusment parks and the like. On one hand it is very convenient, but on the other, if you have a check card or credit card, a lot more is at stake if it gets stolen. I like the ATM/Debit approach, you need a pin to make purchases. It's practially useless though, for most places that would just take Check Card or credit card, and of course there is no secure way to do this sort of thing on line. I have been wondering for a while how the problem of on-line shopping security could be handled. Throw away numbers used for one purchase only each comes to mind. Anyone have experience with this?
  • by YuppieScum ( 1096 ) on Monday September 24, 2001 @12:31PM (#2341494) Journal
    The only time I use my debit/ATM card for actual purchases is when buying on-line.

    For all other purposes I withdraw cash - from as many random ATM's as I can manage.

    I'll continue to do so until I receive an absolute guarantee from my bank that my purchasing habits are completly private.

    And, of course, there are some things that plastic just can't buy...
    • Umm... unless you have a number of bank accounts with different banks your bank knows about all your transactions regardless of how many ATM's you go to. And no one can ever have all their purchasing habits kept private, it's how credit card companies establish your credit rating.
    • >> For all other purposes I withdraw cash - from as many random ATM's as I can manage. I'll continue to do so until I receive an absolute guarantee from my bank that my purchasing habits are completly private.

      Does cash from an ATM (or bank) really guarantee that your purchasing remains private?

      Consider this: The ATM knows which bank account to debit (obviously). The $20 bills you get our of the ATM have serial numbers. The stores you go to will at some point return those $20 bills to a bank. From there it's just a matter of scanning the serial numbers and putting the information into a database.

      It's still _possible_ to track your purchases via cash. There's not a lot of detail: timestamp information smaller than a day may be lost, and the bank may not even know which cash register was used. But where you make purchases isn't private.

      The data might not necessarily be accurate -- money can be lent, given, or stolen. But how often do you give people (outside your household) $20 bills, and how often do you get a $20 in change when you're shopping??

      (Am I paranoid? Nope... I keep on using my debit card and ATMs. Just food for thought.)

      • Several things...

        One is that I don't draw $20 bills, I draw £10 notes.

        Second is that this process depends on retailers never giving out as change money they accept for purchases, and to segregate the currency I spend in a transaction with that from the prior and next customers - not a chance.

        Finally, I often change 10's for 20's and back in banks and post offices.

        I work in IT for a bank, and so I am completely aware of exactly how much information is captured, and the uses to which it's put. I care about my privacy - I don't want someone like me able to count how many bottles of wine I buy a month...
  • by NitsujTPU ( 19263 ) on Monday September 24, 2001 @12:32PM (#2341500)
    We have to remember that money as we know it sort of evolved. It went from physical gold and other backing, to gold (and other backing) stored in banks with bank notes holding them, to paper whose only value is defined by the government issuing it, with no backing. Modern debit cards and checks are just bank notes that represent money that doesn't really represent anything other than the fact that it is money. We already are cashless, people just seem to want this state to be computerized... Well, realistically it is... I mean, a lot of the stuff we buy we never phyiscally move money around to pay for. Actual cash is just another representation of this, why get rid of it? If people stop carrying around cash on their own, I'm sure that less will actually be issued, but why make a big deal of this transition, when it will just occur naturally (if it occurs at all).
  • by pussycat ( 206606 ) on Monday September 24, 2001 @12:33PM (#2341507)
    > it's no less theft-proof...it just takes a theif of a different calibur to pull it off

    That's like saying steel is no less melt-proof than butter; it just takes a different temperature to pull it off.
  • by joshamania ( 32599 ) <jggramlich@yaho o . com> on Monday September 24, 2001 @12:33PM (#2341509) Homepage
    ...please, continue to use your credit cards and cheques.

    I like cash because I don't care to receive any more spam in my snail-mail inbox than I already do. I particularly like cash for black market purchases...kinda difficult with credit cards. Also, if you like avoiding all the troubling paperwork of paying income taxes on that $20 that you got for mowing the neigbor's lawn, cash is good.

    Can any of you imagine having to set up a paypal account when you are 13 years old just so you can get paid by the guy down the street for mowing his lawn?

    Cash ain't goin nowhere...

    "Money will always be paper...but gold will always be gold..." -- Hudson Hawk...Mayflower...

  • Postmodernism (Score:5, Informative)

    by zpengo ( 99887 ) on Monday September 24, 2001 @12:33PM (#2341510) Homepage
    This is something that some postmodernist thinkers saw coming a long time ago. It has to do with the continual separation from reality.

    "Reality" in financial terms is a 1:1 trade of value. X number of pigs for Y pounds of grain, for example. Barter.

    Barter became unwieldy, so there came to be used "valuable" pieces of metal that represented the value of physical objects.

    Then valuable metal became scarce, so we came to use pieces of paper that represented metal stored in a fort somewhere.

    After a while, the paper was valuable just for the idea, and there was no longer a need to back it with gold.

    Then, because the pieces of paper were unwieldy, we came to create bank accounts where we could write one piece of paper (a check) to represent several of the formerly gold-backed pieces of paper.

    Then people got tired of carrying around pieces of paper, so they replaced it with single pieces of plastic that could be used multiple times.

    But pieces of plastic had to be used in person, so when people wanted to buy something from Amazon.com, all they needed to use was the number.

    Our entire financial lives can be reduced to a meaningless string of numbers. That's a far cry from bringing your pigs or cheese or grains or whatever to the market.

    • I'd say my string of numbers is pretty meaningful to me at least.

      Besides that, this whole time we are still dependant on some form of commerce to get goods and services. Where is Star Trek when you need them? I want my unlimited supply of energy, replicators for goods and machines/holograms to take care of all the things no one wants to do.

      Cashless society? How about a moneyless society? Of course if any one did manage to invent a way to eliminate money, you'd have to imagine they wouldn't get paid for doing so.
    • Re:Postmodernism (Score:4, Insightful)

      by maraist ( 68387 ) <michael.maraistN ... .com ['pam' in g> on Monday September 24, 2001 @02:09PM (#2342273) Homepage
      Then valuable metal became scarce, so we came to use pieces of paper that represented metal stored in a fort somewhere.

      I'm not sure that this was the case. It wasn't that the valued goods became scarce, so much as it was impossible to wield $100,000 around in your pocket. Within a given country, the government provided security as for the value of coin, and in the worst case, that coin had some value if melted down. Later as coutries trusted this sort of exchange fiat money (or completely worthless) was used.

      This required the trust that you could get something valuable back if you wanted (say to trade internationally).

      In the US at least, it was eventually determined that the economy need to grow and shring, and that fixing equity on stocked goods was innefficient. If we had inflation, for example, we would have liked to have introduced new cash into society to compensate since the price of gold (the US's former standard) didn't directly vary with the rate of inflation.

      Things were still safe because you could regulate the printing/coining of fiat monies. But then checking became very popular. Now you had the concept of float. One bank would honor a check (and allow accumulation of credit/cash) before the debited bank could deduct.

      Later we have the concept of equity-based loans. I percieve that your good is valued such that I'll lend you most of the money for it. You take that money and spend it (via checks), but more goods and take loans out on them..

      All in all, checkable money develops a velocity (the rate at which the same virtual or physical dollar is spent per year) such that our net assets are multiple times the physical printed fiat dollars total value.

      In a booming economy, that multiplier increases. The problem is that that rate of boom has to be maintained or there will be a dramatic credit crunch. A recession after a boom is devistating because trillions of dollars can up and dissapear (after all checks are registered).

      This would have happened even with a gold standard due to virtual assets and value.

      This is something that some postmodernist thinkers saw coming a long time ago. It has to do with the continual separation from reality.

      The issue has always been one of efficiency. Yes we're more at risk now that a single number can render our bank-account empty. But we have a much greater ability to refill that bank-account than we did when someone with TNT could "blow the safe" and bring you back to square one. You can be insured, bring out new mortages so you don't starve, and most importantly be paid a heck of a lot more than days of old due to incredible industry efficiencies.

  • big brother =:-( (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drenehtsral ( 29789 ) on Monday September 24, 2001 @12:33PM (#2341512) Homepage
    The thing i worry about in a cashless society is that once you have the centralized system to deal with clearing the transaction, people are going to extract marketing data. The government is going to look at your purchasing habits and decide that some people have similar purchasing habits too far to one or the other side of the political spectrum, and are too much of a threat to middle class suburban normalcy and should be liquidated.
    Also that means that if they _suspect_ you of selling/using drugs, they can freeze your finances completely. It gives _way_ too much control to somebody else, based on politics, purchasing habits, etc... It makes my skin crawl.


    I don't think many (any?) major economic powers even _pretend_ to back their currency with anything real anymore, let alone gold.
    • Re:big brother =:-( (Score:3, Informative)

      by ddstreet ( 49825 )
      I don't think many (any?) major economic powers even _pretend_ to back their currency with anything real anymore, let alone gold.

      I believe that is incorrect; the United States issues Federal Reserve Notes (bills, and I believe coins also) which are backed mostly by gold or gold certificates. The US government Treasury holds quite a bit of gold [treas.gov].

      The US Treasury Dept [ustreas.gov] has a FAQ [ustreas.gov] that explains this. See "What are Federal Reserve notes and how are they different from United States notes?", which specifically states:

      Congress has specified that a Federal Reserve Bank must hold collateral equal in value to the Federal Reserve notes that the Bank receives. This collateral is chiefly gold certificates and United States securities. This provides backing for the note issue.
      • Re:big brother =:-( (Score:3, Informative)

        by quartz ( 64169 )

        Yeah, but it later states that

        Federal Reserve notes are not redeemable in gold, silver or any other commodity, and receive no backing by anything This has been the case since 1933. The notes have no value for themselves, but for what they will buy. In another sense, because they are legal tender, Federal Reserve notes are "backed" by all the goods and services in the economy.

        AFAIK, the gold backing thing was mandated by the gold exchange standard of 1920's, which has been replaced in 1971 by the Smithsonian Agreement which established fixed exchange currencies and was itself replaced in 1973 with the so-called "fluctuating fiat currencies", i.e. exchange rates are set by the market according to supply/demand laws. So now currencies, including the US dollar, aren't really backed by anything except the strength of the economy of the country where they are issued. See this link [mises.org] for a documented study of the whole thing.

      • Other articles in this thread address this. Suffice it to say that US greenbacks are not redeemable (or even "backed") by gold or silver reserves any more, and have not been for quite awhile.

        In fact, the Treasury Dept. FAQ you quote states,

        Federal Reserve notes are not redeemable in gold, silver or any other commodity, and receive no backing by anything This has been the case since 1933. The notes have no value for themselves, but for what they will buy. In another sense, because they are legal tender, Federal Reserve notes are "backed" by all the goods and services in the economy.
    • Not Necessarily (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak@@@yahoo...com> on Monday September 24, 2001 @01:32PM (#2341938) Homepage Journal
      "Smart Cards", such as the one Mondo make, have the cash digitally stored on the card. You then directly transfer data from the card to the recipient, without the need of any third-party.

      This has been tested in Swansea, UK, and I believe it proved reasonably successful, at least with the vendors that used it.

      As I see it, credit/debit cards will die off, over time. You can't keep spending ahead of yourself, and expect to make ends meet. The recession of the Thatcher/Reagan era was largely a product of free-spending on credit. The amount spent vastly exceeded the amount available, and the economic system was not able to cope.

      Further, credit/debit cards DO need a third-party, which is inherently more expensive than having the electronics do all the transacting on-site. It's therefore much cheaper for banks to churn out a bunch of "smart cards", with suffcient processing power to handle decent public-key encryption, than to maintain a clearing-house for credit cards.

      Since cheaper usually wins, in the end, a system involving distributed handling of transactions will always be preferable to a centralized one.

      • Re:Not Necessarily (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        The kind of credit that moves economies has almost nothing to do with credit cards.

        As for smart cards being cheaper, you have to remember that banks are going to charge you to transfer money onto the card.

        Credit beats debit any day of the week precisely because you can "spend ahead of yourself". It isn't about going into debt, but making someone else pay now while your money works somewhere else for a month. If accumulating too much debt is a problem, it's certainly not the fault of the credit industry.
      • Somehow I can't see that being sufficiently hard to hack. How long before someone works out a way to tell the card that you deposited an extra $200 on it any time you want? It just seems infeasable to me without a central system of some sort.
    • In the interim the government could track all gifts (i.e., kids receiving $20 for their birthday) in a practical manner and could thus decide to tax all gifts.
    • Also that means that if they _suspect_ you of selling/using drugs, they can freeze your finances completely. It gives _way_ too much control to somebody else, based on politics, purchasing habits, etc... It makes my skin crawl.

      How's that different than credit / checking today? There will always be some sort of "tradeable" currency. Even if it's computers / cars, etc. They can't force you to use a certain type of transaction when you're really trying to be discrete.

      What I see is the same as the gold-standard, which was "credit redeemable in cash" stamped on the cards. Coins will probably be phased out (if inflation hits again and no soda costs less than a dollar, which you already see in high profile areas with vending machines), but dollar bills should be available for more than your life-time.

      In the worst case, the mafia has always been good at money laundring. I'm sure there'll be pawn-shops that act as fronts (for good ole' fashioned trade).

    • You may call him "Big Brother," but the rest of us just call him "Larry!"A [slashdot.org]
  • Cash is inconvienent (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Dan Ost ( 415913 )
    The only thing that I use cash for is vending machines.

    With any luck, future vending machines will take visa...

    I like having a monthly summary of how much I've spent,
    where I spent it, and when I spent it. It makes planning
    easier and more realistic.
  • When McDonalds starts accepting credit/debit, I think we'll pretty much be there. I eat at McD's maybe twice a year, so it's no big deal to me anyway.

    Fast food and race registrations (where I didn't pre-register) are the only places I ever use cash any more. Even my small-town pizza joint accepts credit now. Personally I don't even own a credit card. Just a checking account card with a mastercard logo on it.
    • I recently had to make a frantic trip to my bank to request a credit card - I've been using debit cards exclusively for a while, but when booking a trip I learned that most (not all) car rental companies require a credit card, not a debit card, to rent a car.

      Even more bizarrely, I was told that it doesn't matter if the debit card is backed by a $10k balance, while the credit card has a $1k limit (although I ended up getting a much higher limit). The "logic" was that debit cards usually have a daily limit, vs. credit cards to not. Again, this logic is rather odd since that debit card daily limit may still be higher than some credit card limits.
      • The real logic behind this is that the car rental company/hotel/whatever that requires the credit card can charge for damage at any time just with your credit card number and expiry date. A debit card always requires you to enter your PIN at a terminal so they'd have to get you to agree to pay them. Not surprisingly, they like the credit card better.
    • Re:McDonalds (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ethereal ( 13958 )

      Some McDonald's in Illinois, at least, have started accepting the Mobil speedpass keychain thingy, so that you just swipe and it's recorded on a credit card. If the other gas stations aren't careful, speedpass is going to become the new basis for convenience store and other small purchases.

      I don't have a speedpass, though, because I usually only buy gas at a gas station, and the delay is not the card authorization at the pump, but the time from the authorization until the pump actually starts dispensing. If I could get the time from swipe->gas starts flowing down to about the time to unscrew the gas cap, I'd be happy. Only then would a speedpass make sense at a gas station.

    • Re:McDonalds (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Matey-O ( 518004 )
      I hate to break it to ya...but Mickey-D's DOES accept credit cards.

      Which makes me wonder if Amex Charges McD $1.25 for a $.99 burger...
  • In a Jack Vance story, one world had no use for money. They traded goods based on a person's strakh, roughly similar to personality, prestige, karma, etc. The way to improving one's strakh was to excel in one's craft or trade, and by wisely choosing who received the product of one's labors.

    Good trades, that is providing excellent products to "customers" of high strakh, would increase both parties' prestige.

    Naturally, to an outsider, this gift economy had rules that were nearly incomprehensible. And breaking those rules, even accidentally, could lead to grave personal danger.

    Anyway, the name of the story is "Moon Moth".
  • A cash coincidence? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Laplace ( 143876 ) on Monday September 24, 2001 @12:38PM (#2341548)
    Over the last six months I have made an effort to pay for as much as a can with cash. For groceries, gas, books, and gear, I whip out my wallet and throw down as many twenties as I need. Its has a few nice benefits.

    1) I stay in my budget. I take out cash when I get paid, and know exactly how much I have to spend until my next pay check.

    2) I get less junk mail. No more grocery store fliers, no more technical junk, jut good ol' mail. Coincidence? I think not.

    3) People who provide services for me (yoga, karate, acupuncture, housing, servers, etc) get instant payment, and can do what they want with it, including not reporting taxes. This makes them happy.

    I only use credit cards when I absolutely need to, and am much happier for it.
    • I haven't used a credit card or a check in two years.
      When I buy something, I pay cash.
      Fortunately, my bills come with a bar code. When I want to pay them, I can take them to any bank or post office or convenience store and pay them with cash. Believe me, this is even more convenient than paying online. (Since I do it as I am buying something else.)
      I get no junk mail, other than fliers for pizza places or other handbills that come, not through the postal service, but by some guy stuffing them in my mailbox.
      I just had a few months off, thanks to the dot-crash and guess what? I was fine because I didn't have to worry about credit card payments.
      When I lived in the states, every semi-major purchase was followed by a slew of junk mail. Every move was watched.
      Here in Japan, a good percentage of people buy new cars with cash. They go to the ATM, take out the money and take it to the dealership. End of story. (Here, the daily withdrawl limit at an ATM is around $25,000, as opposed to the $500 limits that are common in the states.)
      The cars are cheaper because of this. If you tried that in the US, you'd have the FBI asking you questions, because only drug dealers try to buy new cars for cash.
      I've never had cash stolen, have you? Are credit cards really that much safer? (egghead.com)
      When I used credit cards, I had a lot more trouble. Now, I just go to a store and buy what I need. I'm not lacking in choices and you wouldn't be either. Plus, you are supporting some local person who pays taxes in your own community - In effect, an amount roughly equal to Visa's share of the purchase instead goes to your schools and roads. (And to the police who help insure that you live in a place where cash doesn't get stolen.)
      So many Americans have been convinced that using a credit card is a necessity for emergencies and convenience. Forget it - the house always wins - if you are using them, you are handing a *lot* to the credit card company - your money, your demographics and your privacy. (I won't even touch upon people who just pay the minimum each month...)
      Using cash is in effect an anonymous proxy on your spending habits. Are you ready to give that freedom up?
      Some poster proposed that the only necessary uses for cash were to pay strippers and buy marijuana.
      That's sad. Do you REALLY want visa to know your every move? For a group that actually thinks about privacy issues, I am surprised by the number of people who willingly allow themselves to be logged on every purchase, every dinner, every stay in a motel and every phone bill?
      Soon, I suspect, it won't be possible to buy an international plane ticket with cash. I guess that's the time I stop going back to the US...

      Jim in Tokyo
  • Cash is the lowest-denominator currency : it's a legal tender that involves no outside institutions such as banks and credit card companies. Should those institutions stop functioning (like during a nuclear war for example), cash would be the only means of payment.

    moreover, some people rely on cash to survive, like beggars and very poor people : these people would not be allowed to get a credit card or check books, mostly because they have no address.

    Finally, there has to be a way to be able to pay for something anonymously. It is necessary in a free society.

    Keep cash alive ! :-)

  • caliber

    1.Abbr. cal.
    a.The diameter of the inside of a round cylinder, such as a tube.
    b.The diameter of the bore of a firearm, usually shown in hundredths or thousandths of an inch and expressed in writing or print in terms of a decimal
    fraction:.45 caliber.
    c.The diameter of a large projectile, such as an artillery shell, measured in millimeters or in inches.
    2.Degree of worth; quality: a school of high caliber; an executive of low caliber.

  • transaction charge (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SirSlud ( 67381 ) on Monday September 24, 2001 @12:42PM (#2341589) Homepage
    Considering that most cashless transactions impose some sort of transaction charge, I patently refuse to accept a cash-only society until these sorts of electronic money services are free. Otherwise, you'd be paying some sort of X% tax on every 'cashless' transaction you make. I prefer cash, if only for this reason alone. (Nevermind that the tangible quality of real cash is an important part of appreciating your hard earned money.)
    • While I to prefer cash and use it 95% of the time, it does not save me or the business any money.

      1 - There is no such thing as a discount for cash. It just doesn't happen. There are a few places (like Steak N Shake, RaceTrak) that are cash only and offer prices that are 1-2% lower, but it's tough to find them.

      2 - Cash costs money. It costs money to have a cash safe. It's a security risk to have a lot of cash on hand for change purposes. It costs money to have a security guard come pick up your cash and take it to a bank. There is no clear accounting trail to follow. Whether this is more or less than the 1.5-3% CC charge business, I have no idea. But don't think that cash costs less money.
      • There is no such thing as a discount for cash. It just doesn't happen.

        Really? Then why do these guys [marketpro.com] sell you discount passes for $3 less [marketpro.com] if you pay cash? Or is that a "credit surcharge", not a "cash discount"? :-P

        FWIW, I went to one of their shows and I was able to get substantial discounts on computer goodies by paying cash instead of credit.

  • by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Monday September 24, 2001 @12:42PM (#2341590)
    Note that it is expensive for the government to maintain the supply of bills. A huge quantity of bills must be printed and taken out of circulation on a weekly basis to maintain a managed supply of relatively clean and tear-free cash notes.

    While it is worthwhile for the government to regulate the amount of money available through monetary instruments and fiscal policy, it seems pointless in our day and age for the government to continue to track the quality of trillions of pieces of paper.

    Note that this is not simply a domestic issue - numerous other nations use the greenback for their currency, so this creates a huge bloated government apparatus that is completely unnecessary.

  • But utterly unlikely.

    People here have pointed out the lack of the touted paperless office. I'd like to add this thought to that: People have been trying since the 70's (at least) to get rid the penny. Check your pockets for the success factor there.

    People stop using things when they become useless. No amount of marketing by "eMoney" companies or wishful thinking by self-professed "geeks" will make it go away.
  • With MS Money and Quicken, the use of checks is even invalid. I never write a check for my bills. You can setup Money & Quicken to pay all your normal bills automatically (whether that means pay online, or sending out a check). Its automatic, and I don't need to worry about the checks, just have to make sure the money is available, and as long as I put in all my deposits on time, the software can warn me the money isn't available and it won't send out the check. Paying bills has never been easier.
  • At present (and a century ago, as well): not-too-bright criminals rob banks. Moronic criminals mug you when you walk out of the bank. Smart criminals go to work for the bank -- and the geniuses stay honest until they reach a high enough level to steal legally.

    A cashless society will certainly slow down the first two types; they can still steal _goods_, but they have to lug them around, find a fence to buy them, not get caught by the police with them, and in general it's more work for less money, not to mention complicated enough to challenge their mentality. However, this provides increased opportunities for the smart criminals. And mainly, I would be concerned about the opportunities this gives to both corporations and governments for dishonest dealings.

    Forty years ago, in any sort of sales business the motto was "the customer is always right". Nowadays, most corporate customer service depts run on the motto "the customer is always wrong". Do you really want to let them hold your money as bits in their computers, with no hard-copy proof of your account?

    And then there are all the privacy aspects -- corporations tracking everything you purchase, g-men able to track your movements every time you stick a card in a machine, etc. I'll use cash, thank you. And if I become worried about muggers, CCW permits aren't that hard to get in Michigan... (A dead mugger is a non-recidivist.)
  • by SCHecklerX ( 229973 ) <greg@gksnetworks.com> on Monday September 24, 2001 @12:45PM (#2341622) Homepage
    Nowadays, I never carry cash around. Before, I always used cash and ended up spending a lot more money, just because I happened to have it on me. With Debit/Credit, you pay exactly what the goods cost. With cash, you need to take out more than is necessary to cover the cost, and lets not forget the tons of change that (for me at least) ends up just gathering dust all over my apartment and in my car.
  • ...on how much bigger you want the underground economy to grow. You cannot eliminate money and expect all the "shady" dealings will immediately switch to e-money. You would probably drive more of the economy underground because people generally don't want a record kept of many kinds of transactions for many reasons.

  • On a similar subject, I would recommend everyone cut up those combo ATM cards that can be used as debit cards where credit cards can be used. They are bad, bad, bad. The reason? If a credit card is stolen, you can easily dispute the charges when they come in, and no cash comes out of your pocket. If a debit card is stolen, it comes directly out of your account. The banks typically promise that they'll credit back the money "really fast", but it still sucks when your checks bounce, and I wouldn't want to depend on how fast the bank acts.

    Cut it up, and ask your bank for a regular ATM card that requires a PIN number.

  • About a week ago, I saw for the first time a vending machine would will take student ID cards instead of cash. My university has a "snack" account plan on which you can charge some purchases made from the university on this account, all you need is your student ID card. Are these cashless machines common in any other areas? I hadn't ever seen one until recently.
  • I'd love to live in a cash-less society but my bank is making it as hard as possible... EVERYTHING I do with my debit card is punished with a service fee. I mean really... how much does a split second computer communication session really cost anyway??

    Cash still has its uses... can't be tracked, flexible uses, won't blue-screen, etc ..... BUT it can be easily stolen.

    Debit/credit transactions are getting more and more widespread everyday, BUT there are service fees on everything and while the money is more secure, it can still be stolen by determined (tech-savvy) criminals.

    Cash will be around for a while yet ... at least as long as it takes for the banks to wake up and discover that people would use their cards more if they weren't being charged so much in service fees.

    • Most banks (at least in the US) will wave most fees if you manage to have a minimum balance or meet other criteria. Some (mostly smaller credit unions) will even cover the cost of the ATM fees when you use a 3rd party atm.

      Now, a starving college student may have a hard time trying to manage the ~$1,500 minimum balance to avoid all fees, but there are other ways around the problem of service fees:

      1) Only use your banks ATM's. Lets face it, if you purchase on impulse and need to use the atm that is conveniently located where you are, then you really dont manage your money that well anyway and should just count the atm fee as a stupidity tax. Plan your purchases in advance and hit your banks atm on the way and you can avoid the problem.

      2) Use a credit card with no annual fee. You should be able to find one with very little hassle, just dont expect a 9.99% interest rate to go along with it.

      3) pay that credit card off each month. You don't care if you have a card with a high interest rate if you pay it off in full each month.

      4) get a checking account with no monthly fees (my bank will wave the fee if you manage a minimum balance or use direct deposit). There may be a few hoops, but it is usually worth your time and effort to jump through those hoops to save the fees (mine used to charge a $2 "transaction fee" for every transaction that I did at the bank that I could have done through an ATM (deposits, withdraws, etc). Solution? simple, use the atm.

      In the end, I have not paid a banking fee (interest, service charges, etc, etc) in several years. It's all part of a good money management solution.
  • The single largest barrier to a cashless society (aside from the abuses by evil people) is service fees. Charge me a fee to use an ATM? Or even sometimes to slide my card at a store? Sorry, game over.
  • How to make your date think you are Mr. Big Shot while retaining your cheapo status:

    1)withdraw $100 for your date from an ATM.
    2)go into bank and exchange $40 for forty single dollar bills
    3)wrap the remaining three twenties around the wad of singles and put in pocket
    4)when paying for stuff on your date, make sure to always roll the twenties off the top
    5)make sure your date does not cost more that $40 so you don't have to pull that last twenty dollar bill.
    6)Say, "Fohgoet a'bout it" a lot. Chicks dig this.

  • by sabre ( 79070 ) on Monday September 24, 2001 @12:55PM (#2341708) Homepage
    In my mind, there are two very important advantages to having/allowing a cash based society.

    1. Cash is really the only means that we have for anonymous/semiprivate transactions. Everything can and is tracked. Big brother is watching you.</paranoia>

    2. People with poor planning skills. To many many many people in this world (although perhaps the interection of slashdot readers and this particular group of people is not very large), money that you can't hold in your hand isn't really money: this means that it can and is spent on a whim with not "plan". This is why people get so down in credit card debt that they can't seem to pull themselves out of...

    If people are allowed to spend "insubstantial" money that they can't feel slip through their fingers... then many people could have a problem with their personal finances...

    IOW, credit cards are not for everyone. :)


  • Think about this: if the cumulative value of everything in the world were expressed in measures of gold, which theoretically backs the majority of world currencies, does enough gold physically exist to back the paper money value, or has the paper money itself become valuable?

    Actually, most major currencies are not backed by gold and haven't been for some time. The United States, for instance, went off the gold standard during the Nixon Administration. Even before that there wasn't enough gold to come anywhere close to backing all of the currency in circulation. Instead the money could theoretically be exchanged for gold, but there were sharp limits on how much gold a person could actually posses, imports and exports were restricted, etc.

    The reason that gold stopped being used as backing for currency is that the partial backing system just didn't work anymore. Real exchange rates between countries shifted because their economies grew at different rates and their central banks had different policies, but the nominal exchange rates weren't allowed to fluctuate. That meant that the real and nominal value of gold was skewed and smuggling became a serious problem- hence the restictions on gold ownership.

    Today there simply isn't enough gold to come anywhere close to meeting the needs of even partially backing currencies (with all the problems that would entail) much less fully backing it. Instead money is backed by the faith and credit of the government that issues it. That's a big part of the reason that exchange rates fluctuate wildly in response to political instability. It seems less tangible that backing with gold, but in reality it's not as big a difference from the partial backing system as you might think.

  • The cash component of the M1 monetary supply, which represents actual money (rather than checks, travelers checks, stocks and the like where the instrument is like cash, but not represented with U.S. currency) is something like 500 billion. That is, there is something like 500 billion dollars in paper and coin money floating around there, and this represents a steady increase from the 1940's, when the Fed's information starts. (Source: http://www.stls.fed.org).

    Electronic wire transfers between banks, wire transfers between people, paperless checks (which are just a request to a bank to transfer money electronically), letters of credit, credit instruments--all of these things have been around well before computers. Some of these devices are by definition an invasion of privacy: an overseas letter of credit is often used by small businesses to indicate to overseas trading partners that money is available--generally, the letter of credit and representation to the overseas partner is made by the bank, and not by the person who pulled the letter.

    That we have started being concerned with privacy issues and can now create paperless checks (that's what you're doing when you pay bills on-line from your checking account to a payee who can accept on-line payments) doesn't mean these things haven't been around since damned near the start of the Fed nearly a hundred years ago. The only things that are new is that it's faster and more convenient to do on your home computer, and we are now more concerned with the Internet about our personal information being sold to third parties so they can mail bomb our homes with junk mail.
  • For a second there I thought it said cache-less society. My system would run a lot slower without that large L1 cache!
  • I couldn't live in a cache-less society! Just think how long locatedb would take to index!
  • So, anonymity and need for authorization access seem to be the two problems with electronic money. These can both be dealt with by way of anonymous cash cards that are purchased with, say, a credit cart or an EFT, and can, by use of public-key encryption, be independently verified as being authentic without the need for access to a central 'money server'.

    To make things more convenient, we can even get around the need for an electronic reader to verify the PGP signature and deduct small amounts froma card, by issuing cards in smaller denominations that can be mix and matched in a pinch, to create 'exact change.'

    Even better, instead of using cryptography, we can simply assign each money card a unique, human-readable serial number, and incorporate anti-counterfeiting, authentication technologies that can be verified by a human without need for an electronic reader or landline.

    In fact, we could make the entire system even more convenient by changing the format from a credit-sized card to a paper medium, allowing many 'bills' to be stored in a 'wallet' at one time. These could be distributed from 'teller machines' that can be accessed using traditional archaic money technologies such as debit and credit cards.

    Woah. I can't wait. It all sounds so cool.
  • by FFFish ( 7567 )
    As of this year, Canadians use debit cards more often than cash. Add in the use of credit cards, and cash is a dying breed.
  • by drix ( 4602 )
    I just realized it's been almost a month since I handled cash-money. I guess I operate on an essentially cash-free basis too.

    Oh wait, that's because I'm in college.

  • i'm no expert, and nyc banking has a decidedly police state flavor, but... my wife bounced the rent check more than once because the japanese do not really use checking, everything is done via fund transfers.

    (she would deposit checks without understanding the bank could take over a week to credit the account)

    so the (japanese) landlord demands cash every month. i think its common for many people to carry tens of thousands of yen (hundreds of dollars) *all the time* with *zero fear* of being robbed in japan, but here in manhattan it's a different story.

    so the japanese carry more cash than typical americans, and seemingly use more automated money transactions as well... what about other cultures and money, anything to be learned?
  • It will take a patchwork of techniques to reach a cashless society, and not all the techniques are particularly high-tech.

    E.g., every workday I walk down to the cafe [crccafe.com] on the first floor where the staff and I greet each other by name. I order my food, they give it to me, and I walk out. Money is never mentioned. At the end of each month, they snail-mail me a bill and I pay it.

    Obviously this won't work for every cafe in the world, but the point is that no PDA's, debit cards, or passwords are involved. It's an old-fashioned tab and sometimes those old-fashioned things work quite well.

  • Why would we? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ZoneGray ( 168419 ) on Monday September 24, 2001 @01:44PM (#2342049) Homepage
    Funny, I relocated to the SF area a couple years ago, and as an experiment, I didn't order any paper checks. I managed to get by the first year using only one of the temporary checks they gave me. I finally ordered paper ones, and I've used four of them, of which three were for goverment agencies (DMV, IRS, State tax). Nearly everything else is paid online... I use a credit card to buy gas and food, and pay that bill online weekly. I carry some cash (cigarettes and junk food account for most of that), but it's a small percentage of what goes through my bank account. So I'm nearly cashless.

    Still, even though it's plausible to go without cash, in order to eliminate it, you'd have to get the sellers to stop accepting it. How would you do that? The only way would be if the government eliminated cash completely, for example, if they offered to redeem it for credit up to a certain date, and refused to back it thereafter.

    For starters, the implications for personal privacy would be substantial, and there would likely be widespread public outcry. But more to the point, cash is a simple method of anonymous exchange that allows economic activity to take place at a very low level. Eliminating it would impact many transactions, as some have observed. Some are illegal, such as drug deals, but others are benign... flea markets and garage sales, poker games, tipping, lemonade stands, and a lot of everyday economic activity among poorer people.

    So I just don't see how it's possible, no matter how close we come, to being able to eliminate cash entirely, nor should we want to. We will be pretty close, in fact, we already are pretty close... if we choose to, we can live with minimal cash. But I don't want to go without it completely, and I don't think many others will either. Anonymous paper cash is a pretty profound invention, and electronic transactions will only replace it for transactions that offer substantial improvement in convenience or that require some sort of accountability.
  • Wouldn't a cash less society put drug dealers out of business? One point of cash is that anonyminity of a transaction (legal or not), and also to provide a low transaction cost for a purchase (don't need to wait for approval, power to come back on etc.)
  • How would an individual in a cashless society buy marijuana, pornography, stolen laptops or big bags of Doritos despite being on a low carb diet? Cash leaves no paper trail, is universally acceptable by people who aren't really a "business" in the IRS-tracks-our-every move sense and has a sort of a global backing. It is the only form of payment accepted in thousands of small shops, bars, clubs, and in many foreign countries, it's the only way to tip a bellhop who nabs you a box of condoms and doesn't tell your wife about the chick you met at Mac World and it's the only way to get out of an expensive speeding ticket without lying to a judge.

    In short, a cashless society would be nice for following our finances, but it reduces a lot of our liberties -- mainly, the right to buy things without anybody (especially not our creditors) knowing what they are. Plus, it's so much fun to do that thing where you make Lincoln stand upside down after a couple joints and a brew-dog.
  • Some of my favorite places to eat, such as Penn Station, White Castle and Steak'n'Shake are cash-only. I don't like to consider a Slider-free society.
  • by Wakko Warner ( 324 ) on Monday September 24, 2001 @02:15PM (#2342325) Homepage Journal
    Is that like a hores of a different colur?

    - A.P.
  • It is a sad, sad day when this story gets posted and none of the top responses as of this comment mention the very obvious and very old problems that everyone should know by now.

    - Cash is mostly anonymous and private. I earnestly hope that it never goes away until some electronic form of money has similar qualities. Your credit cards, debit cards, store charge cards are all extremely un-private. Yes, this actually has significant negative consequences. It's such an obvious arguement that I'll simply say EFF. Almost all privacy policies are mis-named. Which leads to...

    - Under our current system of credit/debit cards, identity theft becomes a easy and devastating attack. It's much more efficient to script an exploit to get credit card numbers than to rob a bank. Simply getting rid of cash will only exacerbate these problems. I wouldn't be surprised if a good third of the ecommerce sites on the internet got hit with one of various viruses/worms this summer alone.

    I know the author was a victim of techno lust and meant well, but people should really be more informed. Civil liberties are too important to foresake for convenience or because of ignorance.
  • We need paper money!

    How else are the Taliban and Osama "I need a skycraper up my wontan ass" bin Laden going to deliver their Superplague to the masses of consuming westerners, without paper bills in which to embed the Spores?[1] As of yesterday cropdusters are out, you know.

    [1]c.f. The White Plague, by Frank Herbert
  • I think the major problem with cash-less transactions is that they take much longer than cash transactions, and have an additional fee. That makes it problematic if a group of people at dinner want to split the bill without cash, or when you get food delivered. For transactions where there's something else going on (chatting with people, finishing desert, bagging the things you bought, etc), it's not too much of a problem, but it means that one quick transaction or a number of transactions at the same time are inconvenient.
  • BTW...

    For those of you who have ever pondered what the point of the Check Card is vs the Debit Card? The bank/Credit union make money off of you when you use your Check Card. That is why it is pushed so hard.

    When I worked for the Credit Union, one of our largest sources of revenue was from people who used Check Cards. That's why, when I use it, I always choose Debit and enter the Pin number. Why should I make the store pay a fee just so I can sign instead of punching in a PIN?
  • ...for small purchases. For small purchases, especially those with tiny profit margins like fast food and vending, using ATM cards is not practical because the transaction fees charged by the banks/credit card companies are larger than the profit the proprieter would have made on the transaction.

    There's a couple possible solutions to this. One is to change the pricing scheme of the fees charged by the banks/CC companies, but I'm not really sure what motivation they'd have to do is such a thing.

    The other solution, and one that a lot of companies are trying (disclaimer: I work for one) is to offer their own cashless payment system with low/non-existant transaction fees, and gain profit through other means such as selling marketing data and/or making interest from the money stored in users' accounts.
  • by yardgnome ( 190624 ) on Monday September 24, 2001 @02:57PM (#2342644) Homepage

    Has anyone else noticed that it's actually hard to use cash in some situations? For the most part, I'm totally cashless. I have a central checking account and a debit card w/ the Visa logo. So rather than go to the ATM, withdraw some 20s, and spend them. I just go to a place of business and they withdraw the exact amount for me.

    But what about the people that prefer to exclusively use cash?

    I worked in a computer retail store for a while. And when people came in and bought a high-high-end PC or laptop with just cash, you'd better believe we noticed it. When someone peels 20-30 $100 bills off a stack, everyone in the store craned in for a better look. And we checked all that money verrry carefully.

    A similar story was told to me by a friend who worked at a candy factory. The janitor at the place had just bought a brand-new car, but was complaining that the dealership almost wouldn't sell it to him. Why not? Because he had paid in CASH. $26,000 in cash. He actually brought the stacks of bills to the dealership in a briefcase, all ready to go. And, of course, the dealer was a little suspicious about someone carrying that much cash.

    So you see my point? How is it that we have come to trust pieces of plastic or signed pieces of paper as opposed to cold, hard, cash? Somehow America has embraced a further level of abstraction from specie to the point of almost rejecting other forms of payment. It just seems like curious situation to me. I'm not sure if I like it or not, though. Like I said, I'm almost totally cashless. But I'd like to believe that if I wanted to switch to cash-only, I'd be able to use that money for whatever I want. Now I'm not so sure I could.

  • There are two major objections I keep seeing pop up here: The first is that the 'big bad government' will be able to snoop on all of our purchases, the second is that marketers will be able to know what were buying.

    However, the more I think about it, I realize that with some careful consideration and common sense legislation, both could be a great boon to us.

    If the government is able to receive real time, compleatly accurate consumer and business spending information (in the aggregate, of course), it suddenly has access up-to-the-second and 100% reliable data for forming economic indicators, which are at best currently formed quarterly.

    At that point, the governments economists can catch onto economic trends quickly and react before any major problem begins to occur. From an economic standpoint, it would be wonderful.

    The other issue surrounds marketers collecting information. I can't seem to understand the danger in this. I for one really want marketers to know what I'm interested in; We have a real chance to change the role of advertising from a broadbased attack on our senses to facilitate brand reconition for products and services we don't need or want (current) to a tool that educates us to the availibility of products and services we genuinanly would like to know about.

    The only key to making this work is a continued diligance in making sure our lawmakers are very specific in the drafting of legislation so information does'nt belong in the wrong hands: For example, governments can only collect data in the aggregate and cannot submit individual information to law inforcement. Or Advertisers can only collect the most basic of demographic information (zip code, income range) about us.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas