Irish Examiner View: Put money on a cashless future

Irish Examiner View: Put money on a cashless future
Withdraw money in banknotes from an ATM in Italy

Money still makes the world go around but the form that essential lubricant takes is changing very quickly. That change has accelerated as Covid-19 19 makes our old normal close enough to unsustainable and certainly unwise.

Consumers are switching from cash to electronic payments at a dramatic and accelerating rate to try to insulate themselves from that great, metaphorical and actual, conduit of infection - cash.

Bank officials report that cash withdrawals have more than halved. Those withdrawals are down 56% in recent weeks as more than 75% of shoppers turn to contactless payments, which they use at least once a week.

The Banking Payments Federation of Ireland say that the great majority of adults - 92% - have used contactless and that almost half of consumers use using their phones or smartwatches to make payments.

This may be as much about convenience as it is about health measures, especially as the WHO and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control say the evidence that notes and coins help to spread C19 is limited.

This evolution, in theory at least, brings many advantages. It also brings some important questions. Will our electronic payments become a 24/7 surveillance system?

How do our data protection rights gel with this innovation? Will it become another defeat for what remains of the idea of personal privacy? When cashless payments become ubiquitous how will the banks exploit that leverage?

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