Recognising the essentiality of cash to a safe and equal Swedish society, a law requiring banks to offer cash services, and ensure individuals do not have to travel far to access them, came into effect this January, and new measures are now coming online across the country.
In 2020, Swedes used cash for just nine percent of all transactions, according to the 2021 Worldpay Global Payments Report. Debit cards are the leading payment choice at 55 percent, followed by credit cards with an 18 percent share and digital wallets at 11 percent. Low though the use of physical money is, it’s still required for nearly one in ten payments, but the reasoning behind the cash protection law has deeper foundations, rooted in societal security and fairness.
The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency—part of the Ministry of Justice—warned that a totally cashless society would be extremely vulnerable in the event of an attack or a natural disaster. All it would take to paralyse the country’s economy would be for the internet or the power grid to fail, rendering all payments impossible.
Additionally, critics of a cashless society have observed the move away from cash has been problematic for those living in rural areas, the elderly, and those with mental disabilities. While alternative payment methods may be convenient for many, a society without the option to also use cash cannot be truly egalitarian.
Accordingly, the Riksdag—Sweden’s national legislature—agreed the Government’s proposal that banks and other credit institutions should secure access to ATMs and cash deposit facilities throughout the country, preserving the possibility to pay with cash. Amendments to the law came into effect in January 2020 and 2021, but what has changed?
Sweden’s central bank—the Riksbank—bears responsibility for supplying citizens with banknotes, and presently has just one cash handling office in Märsta, to the north of Stockholm. It recently announced that this spring, it will be opening a second facility in Jönköping in southern Sweden, which will be followed by a third during 2022 in centrally-located Falun.
Bankomat—a leading supplier of ATMs in Sweden—has also announced that in the first half of 2021, it will set up new cash machines in 17 locations across the country to help fulfil the legal requirement of ensuring people do not have to travel too far from their homes to access cash. 10 of the locations currently lack ATMs, and in the seven others, old machines will be replaced with newer models that allow deposits as well as withdrawals to increase the flexibility of services.
Cash is still an important means of payment for many, not least for people facing digital exclusion… [We] want cash to remain a payment option in Sweden for the foreseeable future, so that everyone can choose how they want to pay.