Sweden Turns its Back on Cashless Society

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Swedish Coins and Banknotes Are Coming Back in 2024

The Swedish government is reevaluating its push towards a cashless society, recognizing the need to reinforce the acceptance of cash transactions, including coins and banknotes.

  • Sweden’s gradual move towards a cashless society has reduced cash transactions to just 1.2%, with some stores refusing cash payments.
  • The government’s Financial Markets Minister is investigating ways to strengthen the role of cash.

The government of Sweden is now revisiting its “cashless society” concept, wanting to strengthen the possibility of trading with cash as of 2024.

A cashless society would ditch physical money—coins and banknotes—and rely exclusively on cashless payment systems. Sweden’s shift towards a society without cash did not happen overnight. It has been years in the making. Today, the use of cash as a payment method has declined to just 1.2%. Many stores have also started refusing cash payments. And crime rates went down, including burglary and tax evasion. It sounds like a great thing, right?

In theory, everything is utopian and euphoric. It is only when it is applied that we start to see the faults in the design. And because Sweden saw these faults it decided to pause this fast-paced transition before it’s too late.

Sweden’s Financial Markets Minister, Niklas Wykman, decided to investigate how to strengthen the cash. His reasons were very simple: inclusion and emergencies.

Socially vulnerable groups, like certain elderly pensioners and individuals with disabilities, will be at a disadvantage in a cashless society. They may have trouble seeing the numbers on screens or just not be capable of keeping up with the ever-evolving payment technology. It makes sense to tailor society to this group because society is all of us, not just a fraction of us.

Then you have emergencies, including:

  • Natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes
  • Public health emergencies like pandemics
  • Technological emergencies like cyberattacks and power outages
  • Economic emergencies like financial crises and hyperinflation
  • Political emergencies like wars and terrorist attacks

Under any of these situations, it is wise to have cash on hand in case infrastructure goes down. Even Florida strongly recommends its citizens keep cash on hand when it’s hurricane season. The least Swedes do is keep Swedish coins and banknotes available in their homes. it doesn’t have to substantial sum, just enough to weather the storm.

The appointed investigator, Member of Parliament Dennis Dioukarev, pointed out how cash withdrawals skyrocketed by 30% following Russia’s attack on Ukraine in February 2022.

How do they turn the clock now that their community has mostly gone cashless, including cashless businesses? When asked during a press conference, the Minister’s answer confirmed that they will be looking into the need for regulations to force certain stores to accept cash. “That is one of the core questions.”

But there’s another perk of reviving the cash in the country. If you combine a digital wallet with a digital ID, the government will know everything about you from your brand of toothpaste down to the medications that you are on. A lot of people opt to pass on cashless payment methods because they want the government out of their financials until tax season.

Several Swedes are extremely happy with these efforts to reintroduce cash to the market. And many outside of Sweden are applauding the government for this move.

Whether to secure vulnerable people’s independence, mitigate disasters, or kick the government out of people’s finances, striking a balance between cash and cashless payments is key so no one gets left behind.

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