Last May, new 100-krone and 200-krone banknotes (worth roughly €10 and €20) were set into circulation in Norway. At the time of writing, however, a lot of younger Norwegians are still unfamiliar with the new bills—ourselves included. Not because they are rare, but because we simply never use cash anymore.

The Nordic countries are leading the way towards becoming cashless societies. According to Sveriges Riksbank (the Swedish central bank), cash transactions made up barely 2 % of the value of all payments in Sweden in 2016. By 2020 that figure is expected to be a mere 0,5 %.

Similarly, here in Norway, even in settings that would traditionally be cash-only—say, the hot dog stand at your kids’ soccer-game, or a pop-up market—you can now easily pay with an app.

Apps like Vipps (in Norway) and Swish (in Sweden) connect your bank account to your phone number, so all you need to transfer money is a phone number or business ID. Settling bills among a group of people in these apps is no more complicated than starting a group chat. It’s easy to use, it happens in real time, and there are no transaction fees. In some ways it’s even easier than trading in cash.

“Some Nordic countries are already cutting back on cash”, Benoît Cœuré and Jacqueline Loh, from the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), write in the Financial Times—adding that “the iGeneration is more likely to reach for a payment app than a purse. To their children, bank notes and coins may look like museum exhibits”.

Indeed, when we look at the Nordics, it’s not far-fetched to think that the first child that will never touch a bill or a coin, might already have been born. However, when we take a step back and look at the rest of the world, we see a rather different picture.

Leave a Reply