Ah, Iceland. For a digital money nerd like me this is the best place in the world. Not because of the glaciers, volcanos, whales, history — the story of Jorgen Jorgenson, the “English Dane“, who became King of Iceland (for a few days) is definitely one that couldn’t be made up — heritage, sagas and sub-zero vodka bars (even the chairs were made out of ice). No, I love it here because Iceland is the most cashless country on Earth. I didn’t take any cash at all with me — in fact, I’d forgotten all about cash until I started typing this article — and nenver needed any. Cards work everywhere, from taxis to bars. A miniscule seven percent of retail POS transactions are cash (it’s more than seventy percent back home) and there is every possibility that contactless cards and contactless phones will soon mop up that last fraction.
If people don’t pay by card they pay by e-bill. There’s only one processor and all the banks are onboard. If a retailer — or another person — pushes an e-bill at you, then you will see it whichever of your online banking accounts you use. When you log in, there are your bills waiting for payment. Once you’ve OK’d the bill, they get their money. Simple, cheap. I’ve always been enthusiastic about pushed e-billing because it means that the retailers don’t have to deal with the payment details.
It seems to me that there is every possibility that Iceland might become the first cashless society. I mean wholly cashless, with no notes or coins at all. At this point, retailers could get rid of their tills and banks could shut down their ATMs.
It’s really interesting speculate on what might then happen. I would love to plan a survey — perhaps with an anthropologist and a sociologist — for the time when the last Icelandic banknote is folded away, because none of us really know how a cashless society will differ from current society. It’s certainly fun to speculate though.
These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]