Business

Cash is king…or is it?

There has been a remarkable recent growth in contactless card payments

A RECENT BBC documentary brought to light the decline in influence of cold, hard cash and the rise in popularity of card payments, particularly contactless.

Covering money, health and business, investigative reporter Jacques Peretti showcased how we, the consumer, have sleep-walked into a world where almost every physical action or subconscious thought we have is dictated in some way by corporations or technology.

He looked at how tech giants brought about the digital payment revolution and formulated a plan to one day kill off cash, first through the introduction of Paypal in the nineties to the smartphone app economy that followed ten years later.

So, while Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek universe may have enjoyed a twenty-fourth century where money doesn't exist, are we in the early 21st even ready for a society without coins in our pockets?

Some would still say no. A recent study from consumer analysts Mintel has revealed that most of us are reluctant to let go of their traditional coins and notes with only a third of respondents saying they would be comfortable to go cashless.

However, almost half of those aged 25-34 saw the appeal, perhaps hinting at future trends and the possibilities therein, but just what do all these digital deals really mean for the consumer on the street?

The majority of us are well used to buying concert tickets, flights and the like online with booking fees and service charges a regular occurrence.

With technology such as Apple Pay, which provides a wallet and debit card functionality on your phone, there is a small amount of money they make with each transaction whereas with Android Pay from Google, they don't take anything.

Great news for Joe Public, right? Not necessarily if you were to go through the small print buried within the terms and conditions.

Google ‘may' collect information on transactions including time, date, value, location, seller profile, any photos used, the type of payment, even a description of the reason for the buy.

From a corporate perspective, this is potentially hugely damaging to a company's IP or for its personnel and resources if this information was to suddenly become available for spamming purposes, or worse.

Security measures need to be carefully considered and implemented if this evolution is to continue with barely any thought paid, excuse the pun, to the ease with which we can tap our cards for payment, rarely bothering with a receipt.

Regardless, how will we in Northern Ireland, professionally or personally, replace cash if payments continue to be overtaken by card and contactless transactions, which has seen a rise since 2015. A firm grasp of both money and technology is needed, how they are evolving together and what that means for both your corporate and private finances.

In developing countries, mobile digital currency is taking over real currency, which could ultimately help these economies if banks and governments were able to affect change in the economic landscapes without a fear of people stashing cash under mattresses - or on tropical island tax havens! Too soon?

But for us, is this ‘next generation' of digital, hyper-fast spending in our interests? Only time will tell and while it is only natural for people to fear change, change is coming.

:: Eric Carson is director of Northern Ireland's largest independent telecom providers Rainbow (www.rainbowcomms.com) and has been a pioneer of the local telecoms industry for nearly 20 years.

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