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How soon until wallets and cash are a thing of the past?

Editorial Team

3 min read
Dollar bills in wallet


Roughly 30 percent of Americans don’t carry any type of cash at all, and 76 percent of shoppers that do carry cash keep less than $50 in their wallets, with nearly half having less than $20 — and why should they?

Thanks to credit cards and debit cards, there is no need to carry paper money.  You can buy goods and services with a simple swipe, dip, or tap of your card. This is why card-based transactions continue to soar while cash money is on the decline. 

However, you still need a wallet to carry your cards, right? Not really.

The rise of mobile payments has liberated American shoppers from billfolds and money-clips. Although near field communication (NFC) technology had a rocky start, the arrival of Apple Pay® revolutionized the world of retail shopping.

If you map current trends to their logical conclusion, isn’t it safe to assume that cash and wallets will eventually become obsolete?

When will cash and wallets go extinct permanently?

Although paper-based currencies are becoming less popular, they will likely stick around for the foreseeable future. Dollars and cents may become harder to use, but as with many obsolete technologies, there are enough users to ensure demand doesn’t disappear completely. Despite the growing popularity of mobile payment solutions, cash may be the payment option of choice for:

  • Elderly shoppers who aren’t as tech savvy as other generations and may not prefer to use credit or debit cards
  • Low-income shoppers who may not have smartphones or bank accounts
  • Shoppers who don’t trust mobile payment options
  • Criminals, terrorists, and black market shoppers who prefer anonymity

Wallets will also likely stick around for a while — even when they don’t carry any paper money.  That’s because wallets offer a convenient way to store drivers’ licenses, loyalty cards, and family photos. Most modern smartphones can duplicate these core functions, but it will take some time for this practice to become 100 percent universal.

Still think the days of cash are numbered?

Even if every person adopted mobile payments or fraudulent activity seized to exist — cash would still be here to stay. 

Not convinced? Keep in mind the following:

  • VHS technology has been replaced many times over (e.g. DVDs, streaming). Yet, 17 percent of American homes still have a VCR2 — and nostalgia is bringing people back to older technology, including record players, video game systems, and VHS tapes.3
  • People still send telegrams. Even with the advent of postal services, email, and text messaging.4

Adjusting your payment options to meet the needs of the few

In the coming years, fewer of your customers will use cash. The number will probably never reach 0 percent, but the general downward trend is unmistakable. 

Though as a merchant, your focus shouldn’t be on removing increasingly obsolete payment options from your business. Instead, it should be on expanding the number of ways customers can buy your products and services.

To learn how we can help, contact our team of payment experts today.

1 “More Americans say they don’t carry cash,” CNBC, 15 January 2019
2 “A surprisingly large number of people still use VCRs and other outdated technology,” Business Insider, 1 September 2017
3 “You could be sitting on a fortune if you have some old VHS tapes. Here’s how to cash in,” Miami Herald, 12 December 2019
4 Homepage, SendTelegram.com

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