Why cash is losing its currency
Jared Fliesler uses "Card Case" all the time - he works for the company that invented it, Square, named for the other nifty gadget it came up with that allows anyone to swipe a credit card into their smart phone or iPad.
All this easy mobile money flying through the clouds has some a little leery about security. But Fliesler said the protections built into the system are far better than cash.
"It's actually an added layer of security," Fleisler said. "Every transaction has your photo right next to your name. So if somebody else walks up you're going to know instantly as a merchant that that's not the person who owns that phone or who has that Card Case."
And it's not just Square - everyone from Apple to Google to Visa and most major banks are looking to change the way we pay, and the number of mobile money transactions is going through the roof.
Sam Shrauger is vice president of global product and experience for PayPal, one of the pioneers in e-money way back when checks were still commonly used.
He told Cowan that PayPal went from processing $140 million in 2009, to $750 million in 2010, to $4 billion in 2011. "We expect that we'll see $7 billion this year," Shrauger said.
PayPal believes this is the future of shopping - no wallet, no cash, just a mobile device with an app that combines all your credit and checking accounts, along with coupons and other offers.
"Anyone who has a wallet can use a digital wallet, more easily than they can use a physical wallet," Shrauger said. "I think money can be better in a digital world. It can move more easily. It can be more flexible. It can actually be smarter."
Lost in all of this, of course, are the poor with no access to phones or fancy tablets. And there are those who DEPEND on cash, like waiters, parking valets, skycaps and baby sitters, none of whom are anxious to see cash disappear.
"Don't we lose a little of the nostalgia of having actual money in our wallet and coins in our pockets?" Cowan asked Reich.
"We do lose something if we don't have the money, the cash, the coins," he replied. "When it's all digital, it's a loss of a lot of icons, a lot of symbols about who we are, how we're doing and what we value things for."
But that mobile money train has already left the station. Most agree a cashless society is not only inevitable, for most of us, it's already here.
For more info:
- "The End of Money: Counterfeiters, Preachers, Techies, Dreamers - and the Coming Cashless Society" by David Wolman (Da Capo Press)
- Square: Card Case
- The cost of manufacturing a penny (Snopes.org)
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