Coleman / The changing need for cash

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IN Swedish shops, somewhere around 20 per cent of transactions last year were paid for in cash. They’re the world leader and Sweden will probably be the first country in the world to go to a purely electronic economy.

Chris Coleman
Chris Coleman.

In Australia, we’re a bit behind the Swedes, we ticked over the 50 per cent mark sometime last year.

I had a night out last week, and while it wasn’t by design, it turned into an experiment where paying cash went up against cashless transactions. And I reckon that in the nation’s capital, cash is no longer king!

My wife and I decided to leave the car at home. Having used Uber extensively in the US, I decided a local trial was due.

I punched my home address into the app and eventually managed to tell it where I wanted to go. This was harder than I thought it should have been as I didn’t know the club’s street address and the app didn’t want to let me drop a pin on the digital map. A car was nearby and my phone buzzed almost immediately to suggest an impending arrival. This proved misleading, as the car decided to sit about 500 metres down the street for about five minutes while we waited in the cold. So, by the time we were in the car, the cashless society was behind the eight ball.

It quickly recovered on arrival with no mucking around finding cash, just a quick “thank you” from our driver and we were inside. A round of drinks (paid for in cash) and then we kicked back for some pre-dinner conversation. Subsequent rounds were paid for electronically. No beer-soaked notes to put in my wallet, no picking up coins out of puddles on the bar. And even though one of the trips to the bar was for a single drink, no complaint about paying for it by card.

After dinner, which went straight on the plastic, we decided to have a quick hit on the pokies. Again, not something we do often, but this was an interesting experience, going from cash to cashless in a heartbeat. For once, this was not because I couldn’t spin up a win, I actually got a little in front and decided to cash out. Except that touching the collect button didn’t send a cascade of dollar coins, it ejected a voucher. While exchanging it for cash, I saw that the club even offered the option to collect larger payouts by bank transfer (I should be so lucky!).

Heading for home, there was a cab out the front, so we jumped in. This saved us some time at the beginning. But sadly not at the end. We pulled up at home, I rounded the fare up – about 25 per cent more than the equivalent Uber fare, by the way – to mean I only had to get $10 in change. This is usually a simple process. A single blue note, maybe a couple of purples or maybe a few gold coins. Cabbies carry change, right?

Not this bloke. He checked everywhere; his fanny pack, his console, his wallet and his pockets. He offered me a tenner that had been torn clean into two pieces, before giving me a fiver and a heavy pile of silver coins. Sorry cash, you lost this round and your time is just about up.

Which makes me wonder, by the time my grandson is old enough to appreciate them, will he actually know what the coins I’m collecting for him from the Mint were actually designed for?

Chris Coleman is the weekday drive presenter on 2CC

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