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Pro-cash voices in the digital age

calendar iconApr 23, 2019

Surprising as it may seem, working within e-commerce or a mobile, card or cryptocurrency company does not actually require an ‘anti-cash’ mentality. If anything, it's discouraged.

When it comes to the cash debate, the arguments are not cash versus non-cash payments (such as card or online payments), but rather, cash versus cashless (where cash is no longer an option). Sure enough, there are pro-cash voices from the electronic payments world supporting the coexistence of physical and digital payments.

“I would never predict the death of cash over the next decade or two. I think cash is going to be with us for a long time to come, ”
"Dan SchulmanChief Executive Officer at PayPalNew York Times interview (2019)

But why is it that cash is so important according to those who circulate in digital spheres?

Cash works when connectivity fails

Over the past couple years, various hacker attacks, glitches, natural disasters, abuses of power and unstable signal have reminded the world over of the dangers of relying too much on technology. So, it is no surprise that experts in FinTech are not ready to give up the most reliable backup payment option.

Cash protects privacy

Assuming connectivity was guaranteed wherever you went, being imprisoned on 'the grid' brings about what is arguably the most important reason for defending the option to pay with cash. According to research from Bitcoin-based blog, Bitmex, cash already has all the privacy-protecting features of the most secure cryptocurrencies and more, plus it's free.

Excerpt from Bitmex Research

Other members of the Bitcoin community prioritise other features ahead of low fees. This is often characterised as “censorship resistance”, but may actually refer to a range of related properties. The main aspects of these features are:

  • the ability to use the system without seeking permission,
  • the inability of the government or other authorities to block payments,
  • the inability of the authorities to reverse payments, and
  • resistance against the entire system being shut down.

However, just like the use case of low transaction fees described above, these characteristics are also not unique. Physical cash (notes and coins) also have these features, again making Bitcoin seemingly useless.

'Physical cash not only has these features, it has them to a far greater extent than Bitcoin.'
"'Bitcoin’s unique value proposition'Bitmex Research (Nov 18, 2019)(Nov 18, 2019)

Cash also has additional features that Bitcoin cannot offer, such as the ability to transact when communication networks are unavailable or without a device such as a smartphone.

Cash is democratic

This aspect has been brought to the attention of e-commerce companies. Amazon recently took a step back on their cashless plans, revising the policy at cashierless Amazon Go stores after concerns about discrimination were backed by Philadelphia's recent ban on cashless stores.

“We are working to accept cash at Amazon Go,”
"SpokespersonAmazonAs quoted by CNBC (Apr 10, 2019)

It was only two years ago that Visa declared a war on cash and India's Prime Minister enforced a ruthless cash ban under the guise of 'stopping crime' (failing miserably, and drastically harming the most vulnerable). In the meantime, various governments announced their own ambitions to make their countries cashless within a handful of years. Headlines would have you believe that the end of cash was near...

Now, just a few months into 2019, we've seen political representatives across the United States pass city and state laws to safeguard cash as a payment option. To the shock of all cashless lobbyists, nearly-cashless Sweden took a U-turn and instead introduced a law requiring that all banks handle physical currency. Even in a Brexit-obsessed climate, the UK's leading consumer rights charity, Which? launched a petition to defend the freedom to pay with cash in response to profit motivated drops in ATM numbers.

Why? Because cash is permissionless, easy and reliable, guaranteeing freedoms we must hold on to.

Related content

USA Today A Letter to the Editor
I am pleased to see news coverage of Amazon’s reported decision to accept cash at its Go stores. Accepting cash ensures that all consumers can buy from any business. In fact, retailers that ban cash are excluding approximately 25% of people in the U.S. who are either totally “unbanked” or “underbanked,” with little or no access to other payment methods. Instead of excluding people, retailers should be making it easier for everyone to participate in our economy.

Bitmex Bitcoin’s unique value proposition
In this piece, we examine the question of “What is Bitcoin for?” We conclude that neither low-cost payments, censorship resistance, nor digital payments are particularly compelling on their own. However, combining censorship-resistant money with the ability to use money electronically results in an interesting set of characteristics.

CNBC The cashless society myth: PayPal, Square, and bitcoin...
If you listen to the way mobile payments executives talk about cash, the only thing as certain as its death is their reluctance to be the ones accountable for putting that event on any kind of timetable.

Last Updated: Apr 24, 2019

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