Card only: Sweden has become a cashless society, so customers have switched to cards and smartphones

Gustaf remembers the exact date on which he last used money. & # 39; It was October 7 last year & # 39 ;, he said without hesitation.

& # 39; I found an old note that I had forgotten and used it to buy some candy. & # 39;

Like many others at his university in Gothenburg, Sweden, Gustaf relies on cards and smartphones to spend money. & # 39; None of us uses money – you just don't need it these days & # 39 ;, he said.

Card only: Sweden has become a cashless society, so customers have switched to cards and smartphones

Card only: Sweden has become a cashless society, so customers have switched to cards and smartphones

But there is one problem – a big one. The 20-year-old computer science student continues to lose his bank cards, along with others wiping open electronic locks for his apartment, gym, and lecture rooms. & # 39; I laugh about it, but it is very uncomfortable. & # 39;

So he plans to get a small microchip, barely bigger than a grain of rice, sprayed into his hand that he says will make life easier and also & # 39; cool and futuristic & # 39; – following at least 4,000 other Swedes as their country struggles in a brave new world without hard money.

They have inserted chips under their skin – usually above the thumb – to pay for their coffee and bus and train journeys, waving a hand over the payment machines as if they were using a contactless card.

This mixing of people with technology sounds like science fiction. Yet it is that this Nordic nation – the first in Europe to issue banknotes more than 350 years ago – is leading the global advance towards a cashless society.

Great Britain is close by and comes third in a recent analysis of cashless economies, with barely a third of retail transactions still being done in banknotes and coins.

Even cafes and cafes started with cash, while around 300 ATMs close every month.

It is a huge rush that has alarmed many in the UK – and has prompted the MoS to launch the Keep Our Cash campaign.

& # 39; If we do not take action now in this country, we are only a few years away from Sweden & # 39 ;, warned Natalie Ceeney, the former financial ombudsman who led a review on access published earlier this year to money.

Nuts and coins represent only one percent of the Swedish economy, compared to an average of ten percent in the rest of the continent, since cafes, shops and even banks stop using cash.

Global march: Sweden leads the way forward to a cashless society with Britain not far behind in third place

Global march: Sweden leads the way forward to a cashless society with Britain not far behind in third place

Global march: Sweden leads the way forward to a cashless society with Britain not far behind in third place

After eating a shrimp salad at Glashuset, a smart seaside restaurant in Stockholm, I asked my waitress if they were still taking old-fashioned money. & # 39; Yes, & # 39; she answered. & # 39; But we are stopping this weekend. We are Swedish – nobody uses real money anymore. & # 39;

I heard this mantra repeatedly. Susanne Dahlberg, 53, a technology manager, even said that when she had to earn cash last year, she thought the banknotes were strange. & # 39; I realized it was the first time I had released a new series of bills three years earlier. & # 39;

In Hotel Kung Carl, where Tomas Brolin, former football player from Sweden and Sweden, organized his 50th birthday party, a guest confessed that he had to be saved by his girlfriend because he only had cash, which was not accepted at the bar.

Barely one in ten Sweden used cash for purchases last year, according to a survey – in 2010 this was less than four in ten – while the total value of banknotes and coins in circulation was almost halved in the same period.

The reason for going cashless is based on convenience and the reduction of crime. Even the Abba museum, a shrine for the band that sang money, money and money, refuses to take notes after a member of the group became a prominent proponent when his son's flat was broken into.

& # 39; It made me think: what would happen if this was a cashless society and the robbers could not sell what they stole? & # 39; said Björn Ulvaeus.

So now the man who possibly wrote & # 39; the world's most famous song about money, never brought any money with him – while a local journalist told me that the switch to digital street musicians and beggars had pushed him off the street.

Furniture giant Ikea is also following this trend and announced last month that its store in Gävle, about 100 miles north of Stockholm, would be the first to drop money after a short test, releasing the move 30 minutes a day for front-line staff .

There were a few complaints, mostly from customers in the canteen – so managers gave them free hot dogs or meatballs and then asked them to carry a card next time.

But not everyone is enthusiastic. There is growing resistance from groups such as retirees – who say they remain marginalized – while experts warn of serious security implications for both individuals and the state.

Extra time: by making free Swedish frontline staff more than 30 minutes free during the day

Extra time: by making free Swedish frontline staff more than 30 minutes free during the day

Extra time: by making free Swedish frontline staff more than 30 minutes free during the day

The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency has urged citizens to keep some money in small denominations for use in crisis situations such as power outages, cyber attacks or war.

This followed a suspected Russian cyber attack on Latvia, just over the Baltic Sea. Major energy blackouts in places such as Canada and the United States have also demonstrated the need for cash during emergencies when the internet is not available.

There is another more familiar problem with relying on futuristic technology: it may not meet the claims – as discovered by Eric Orlowski, a social anthropologist who had his hand & # 39; chipped & # 39; while studying these innovations.

Orlowski discovered that the microchip was incompatible with many other systems, so it used it for little more than to activate the alarm in his parents' home in southern Sweden.

& # 39; There is a lot of hype at the moment & # 39 ;, he concluded.

The opposition to money began with retirees and people with disabilities who were concerned about unknown technology and favored currency for the budding range of credit cards, debit cards and smartphone apps being offered.

Former banker Hans-Uno Broström, 74, does not own a computer, despite the end of his career in the IT department of Handelsbanken, where he saw the urge for electronic money. He only uses a card for expensive things and walks out of the stores and refuses cash.

& # 39; I think the cashless society is very bad for the youth because they don't learn how to take care of their economy & he said. & # 39; They do not learn debit and credit; they just think there is money to use. Many end up indebted. & # 39;

Now he is worried about his ferry to Granholm, a peaceful, small island without cars, an hour from Stockholm, where his family has had a summer cottage for three generations, could stop making cash payments. & # 39; Maybe it's time to start a rebellion, & # 39; he joked.

The Swedish National Pensioners Organization estimates that about one million citizens share Broström's dislike of the switch to digital money – a significant minority in a small nation of ten million. An estimated 140,000 elderly people still use only cash.

& # 39; This issue keeps coming when I meet people & # 39 ;, said Jan Andersson, his vice president and a former MEP. & # 39; Small bank branches no longer have cash, while there are fewer and fewer ATMs. & # 39;

Andersson & # 39; s father was a night bus driver, so he sees the advantage that such people do not process large amounts that make them vulnerable to crime. & # 39; But we talk a lot about freedom of choice in Sweden & # 39 ;, he added. & # 39; You must also have the free choice to use cash or your card. That is no longer the case. & # 39;

Not everyone is happy with the cash changeover - with concern that young people are developing into debt

Not everyone is happy with the cash changeover - with concern that young people are developing into debt

Not everyone is happy with the cash changeover – with concern that young people are developing into debt

He tried to take cash from a bank in the coastal town of Helsingborg, and was told that he had to travel 40 miles to Malmö. & # 39; An ice cream parlor owner opposite the bank told me that he no longer accepts cash because he cannot bring coins there. This shows the broader effect of these decisions. & # 39;

At least 900 out of 1,600 bank branches in Sweden no longer handle cash, and critics say their bosses have forced the shift to make bigger profits, while ministers see higher tax revenues when the black economy is squeezed.

This bank profit was emphasized by Roger Elbling, owner of a tobacconist and sweetshop in Stockholm, while serving customers in his football shirt from Sweden.

Elbling said that only one in ten of his customers uses cash, compared to around eight in ten five years ago. Yet it cost him 500 crowns (£ 42) to pay 100,000 crowns (£ 850) in digital cash to a bank, compared to 150 kronor (£ 13) for the same amount in cash.

& # 39; It's great for the banks because they do less work and earn more money & # 39 ;, he said. & # 39; If banks in other countries see how many of us they are, trust me that they will all do the same. & # 39;

So when did he last use cash, I asked. He smiled and paused to think before he replied: & # 39; I think it must have been when I was on vacation in Germany because I never use it in Sweden. & # 39;

But even technology student Gustaf admitted that there were two camps at his university: one that saw money as outdated, thrown at a smaller group that feared to transfer so much very personal information to private companies and government institutions.

One critic told me that when he asked friends if they ever used cash, they only said when buying alcohol from the state monopoly because the & # 39; a little embarrassing & # 39; used to be. As he noted, & # 39; this innocent example shows that they fear that the data could be misused & # 39 ;. Digital cash fans accept such concerns. & # 39; We are self-righteous, but it's just so handy & # 39 ;, says Malva Furst, 37, an art director who just bought her four-year-old daughter Kay an ice cream on her card. & # 39; Nevertheless, I am concerned about data. & # 39;

Although Sweden has more confidence in companies and politicians than in most Western countries, by helping this rapid transition of money, such privacy issues have been reinforced by a series of recent crimes involving the abuse and failure of technology giants.

Fear of privacy has been increased by the use of cards and fears about data

Fear of privacy has been increased by the use of cards and fears about data

Fear of privacy has been increased by the use of cards and fears about data

The Cambridge Analytics Facebook scandal last year demonstrated how such data can be harvested and resold to advertisers, making customers secretly valuable.

Some experts have deep concerns. & # 39; In a society where you can't buy anything without leaving traces, or even owning money, that's a less free society & # 39 ;, said Svante Linusson, a mathematics professor at KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

& # 39; Small payments may not matter, but if you put them all together, you build a large photo & # 39 ;, he said.

& # 39; This is fundamentally changing society. If I can't give my friend 500 crowns without the state knowing, we give too much control over it. & # 39; He is also concerned about parents who can keep track of how teenagers spend money and about women who are stuck in controlling relationships.

& # 39; I know a woman who had to buy something she didn't need in a store and then took it to get cash so she wouldn't be questioned by her partner & # 39 ;, he said.

Linusson said he always tried to use cash in stores. & # 39; My friends say that I and a few old people really care, but I answer that there is great concern about data and electronic money. & # 39;

The fiercest critic is Bjorn Eriksson, who, as a former National Police Commissioner, Head of Customs and Head of Interpol, the global crime-fighting body, is expected to embrace the shift to traceable money transfers.

Instead, he leads Kontantupproret (Cash Rebellion) and claims that this is a fight between people and the elite. & # 39; The establishment seems angry that some people are still talking about money, but many people feel angry about what is happening. I see resistance grow. & # 39;

Eriksson states that there are three main concerns: inequality for those who hate digital cash or live in rural areas with limited internet; state security in a time of increasing regional tensions; and control by autocratic governments of their citizens. & # 39; Already in China, these things are being used to reward or punish citizens for their behavior & # 39 ;, he said. & # 39; This type of control is unlikely to be used in the UK or Sweden, but this should still be a serious concern for society. & # 39;

He accepts that there is no longer any point that robs banks; the number of robberies in Sweden fell from 110 in 2008 to just two last year. But identity theft has risen, especially among the elderly, and cases of electronic fraud have more than doubled during this period.

& # 39; We have seen a dramatic increase in identity and cyber theft that harms society more than the old types of crime. We see people trying to get hold of old people's data and then stealing everything they have. Banks are safer – but is society really safer? & # 39;

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