This Scandi Country May Be the World's First Cashless Society

Bring your card, not your cash, to Sweden
Bring your card, not your cash, to Sweden | Pixabay
Judi Lembke

If you think cash is king, think again: Sweden is on track to becoming the world’s first cashless society – and it’s probably going to happen sooner than you think.

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A new report from Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology predicts that cash will be obsolete by 2030. Anecdotal evidence is everywhere: many shops, restaurants, and even attractions, such as ABBA The Museum, now display signs saying they only take cards, and cash machines are slowly disappearing. Even banks are not dealing with much cash these days – according to a recent report for Coin Telegraph, 900 of Sweden’s 1600 bank branches no longer store cash or accept cash deposits, and circulation of Swedish kronor has fallen by nearly half since 2009.

Cash is no longer king in Sweden

Speaking with The Local, Niklas Arvidsson, one of the researchers behind the study said, ‘It’s going very fast just now. For the banks, handling cash is just a cost, so cash will only be available as long as people and stores request it.’

Fewer and fewer people are requesting it and, although state-owned institutions are still required to accept cash, it might just be a matter of time before this is no longer the case. Sweden’s central bank has been considering the viability of a government-backed digital currency and the Coin Telegraph report says Bitcoin might be a likely candidate.

Could Bitcoin be the future currency of Sweden?

Interestingly, a 2016 study by Visa showed that Swedes use their debit cards three times more often than most Europeans and smartphone payment apps like Swish, which is used by more than half of Swedes, has made it possible for everyone from hot dog vendors to friends paying for concert tickets to avoid sullying their hands with cold, hard cash. Less than 20% of store transactions involve cash and buses haven’t taken banknotes or coins for years.

Many business owners are happy to be cash-free, believing it reduces the risk of robbery. Parents are happy they can give their teenage children their own debit card, as it makes it easier to shift money over to them and allows them to learn financial responsibility.

Leave your cash at home when visiting Sweden

At the end of the day, what’s important for you to remember when visiting Sweden is to make sure you’ve got your card with you and to not bother taking much cash along. Rare is the shop, restaurant, or museum that won’t take cards – and there are more and more that won’t take cash under any circumstances.

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