Top Five Cashless Countries - What do they have in Common

Aug 6, 2013
Posted by: David

So a number of countries are really leading the way in going cashless. But they are now what you might expect and whilst some have technology/mobile strong at the core not all do. What do they all have in a common, I would argue a change in culture/attitudes of the population as the single biggest factor. Thanks to Total Payments for the analysis:

The number of bank robberies in Sweden plunged from 110 in 2008 to 16 in 2011—not because security has vastly improved, but because most Swedish banks simply don’t handle cash anymore.
Cash transactions are down to just three per cent of the national economy (compared to nine per cent in the Eurozone and seven per cent in the US); public buses don’t accept cash; and three out of four of Sweden’s largest banks are phasing out the manual handling of cash in bank branches. Need to donate money at church? There’s a card reader for that.
Although Sweden is probably the closest developed country to achieving a cashless society, one researcher predicts it probably won’t be before 2030.
Within the Scandinavian region, Norway is also making the transition to cashless, with approximately 11 per cent of the population not carrying cash at all.

Though one of Africa’s poorest countries, a mobile revolution has created an informal electronic banking system with more efficiency and convenience than many far more developed countries in the world. Cash is disappearing and there is no need for credit cards because even street vendors accept payments by mobile phones. A survey in 2012 found that the average customer made 34 transactions per month on their mobile phone—higher than almost anywhere in the world.

The biggest African user of mobile money is Kenya, where there are 15 million subscribers to M-Pesa. Though originally a method to send money home from cities to families in rural areas, M-Pesa is widely used for many things—from receiving salaries, to paying bills and school fees, slowly making cash obsolete.

As of January 1, 2013, no more new Canadian currency is being printed. Why? Firstly, there has been a decrease in demand for new bills. Secondly, the plastic bills have a longer life expectancy. The biggest reason: a push toward driving a cashless future. According to a poll by PayPal Canada, 56% of Canadians already would prefer to use a digital wallet than cash. Also, Canada is a world leader in plastic payment, where payment by credit, debit and bank cards is almost 70 per cent compared to a world average of 40 per cent.

South Korea
Starting out as a very cash dependent society, the Korean government has successfully put into place policies to encourage cashless behaviour which many other Asian countries can learn from. For example, South Korea introduced a preferential VAT treatment for consumers who pay with cards, moving the share of cash from 40 per cent to 25 per cent within four years from 2002 to 2006. South Korea was touted as the leading Asian nation in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s E-Payments Adoption Ranking.

Some other top contenders include: Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, US, and Nigeria.