Cash Wins Assessment of Payment Options

calendar iconDec 23, 2021

A recent analysis of five different payment options ranked them on factors including cost to the user, privacy, security and acceptance. Cash scored highest overall, with top marks in most categories.

Alethea Trading—a consultancy offering business services connecting Europe and the Middle East—rated cash, cards, mobile money, cryptocurrency/decentralised financing and central bank digital currencies. Each payment method was given a one for low efficacy in a given area, two if it performs adequately and three if it excels.

Cash received a total of 26 points, scoring the top mark for acceptance, cost to user, security, speed (as an instant transfer of value), data privacy, inclusion and minimal infrastructure, and protection from misuse by the issuer. It received the lowest score in just one area: global reach, reflecting the regional nature of cash. All payment options are subject to some regional limitations, with cards the only option given a three in this area by Alethea (despite also having geographical boundaries).

Cards were ranked second overall with 22 points, scoring highly in categories such as acceptance, user experience and global reach. Alethea rated it one in terms of speed (transactions are not immediate) and data privacy, since transactions can be tracked, analysed and monetised via sales to third party companies.

Central bank digital currencies scored 20 points. Alethea felt their strong points were no cost to the user, speed, inclusion and required infrastructure. It identified their weaknesses as being acceptance (as they are strongly regional), data privacy, and protection from issuer misuse. CBDCs are open to government monitoring and interference, creating potential issues for this option’s future.

Mobile wallets and crypto/defi tied on 19 points. Alethea pointed to speed and user experience as the top benefits of mobile money, with crypto/defi also scoring highly for speed as well as security. Both received scores of one for inclusion and necessary infrastructure, requiring specialist software, a degree of technical competency, and electricity plus an internet connection to function. Mobile money also scored lowest for privacy—with the same issues as cards—while crypto/defi scored three in this category.

Ultimately, what can be taken from the assessment is that different payment options offer different advantages (and disadvantages), each contributing to the maintenance of choice within the payments landscape. It also points the importance of retaining cash within that landscape to ensure people have an option offering genuine privacy, security and independence.

Last Updated: Jan 17, 2022