Cash Supports Financial Comprehension

May 13, 2024

Cash, by design, is simple to use, helping to teach numeracy and financial literacy from early life. While cashless payments can build on this comprehension, more efforts are needed to educate people of all ages on their use, benefits and risks.

A recent example is Uganda, where cybercrime is costing millions of dollars while simultaneously major banks are pushing towards digital transactions. One issue is that ‘cashless payments increasingly drive illegal activities,’ with modern criminals finding new ways to exploit digital payments. Having the option to use cash for certain transactions can help protect people from these scams, and keep their personal data private. A second problem, however, is digital literacy being uneven across the population. To make cashless payments fairer and safer, greater education is needed.

Looking a little farther back, the issue comes up again in Jamaica. There, network resilience is a challenge—a doctor’s surgery struggles with a malfunctioning card machine—but there is a call for improved digital literacy alongside strengthening digital infrastructure.

Australia is another country where the matter has been raised, with ‘some cashless options [requiring] a level of digital literacy not everyone possesses, making them less inclusive than cash.’ While supporting access to cash and ensuring businesses continue to accept it is one way to keep the economy accessible, once again, further education around cashless options would open them up to more people, and help everyone make informed payment decisions.

Cash is simple and fair, welcoming everyone regardless of age, credit rating or technical ability. As a public service—not a profit stream—it also comes without strings attached, empowering individuals rather than companies. While cashless options are inherently for-profit, they can be made fairer. People will be empowered to use them—and choose well between different payment methods—when they are educated on the best use and particular advantages of both cash and cashless options. Responsibility for this education could rest with governments, banks or cashless providers themselves, based on local circumstances.

Last Updated: May 13, 2024