There have been discussions of all financial transactions going digital for years, but only recently has it started to look like an eventual reality. Though CNN Money reported in June that Denmark looked to be closest to becoming cashless, alongside Sweden and Norway, researchers at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm are reporting on AlphaGalileo that Sweden is at the front of the pack. "Our use of cash is small, and it's decreasing rapidly," says study head and industrial technologist Niklas Arvidsson. His study cites the "embrace" of IT and "crackdown" on crime and terrorism as moving Sweden along. "At the offices which do handle banknotes and coins, the customer must explain where the cash comes from, according to the regulations aimed at money laundering and terrorist financing," Arvidsson says.
Already there are fewer than 80 billion Swedish crowns ($10 billion) in circulation, a more than 20% drop since 2009, and only about half of that is actually in regular use. Instead, many are now using the person-to-person transaction app Swish, which was created a few years ago by big Swedish and Danish banks. Some complications remain, including concern about security as well as access by the elderly, homeless, undocumented immigrants, and those in remote communities, but many banks say digital transactions allow for greater transparency and lower costs. Some banks won't even accept cash, notes TechRadar.com, and staff are instructed to file police reports if any cash transactions appear suspicious. (Will going cashless eradicate panhandling?)