Payment tech from Star Trek – the future is here!
Money, money, money. Must be funny. In the rich man’s world. ABBA may have been onto something there, but the truth is it’s getting a bit funny in all of our worlds.
It’s an increasingly digital one we now live in and, as such, we’re starting to appreciate the simplicity and security of cashless payment. The days may well be numbered for nuisance notes and clumsy coins, but how will this change our relationship with money and will our ability to curb our spending when we’re out shopping go out of the window without seeing the cash in our pockets disappear?
Cashless purchasing and its effects
Today, cheque books are virtually museum artefacts and almost everyone owns a credit or debit card – sometimes several. But even plastic may be on the way out, as companies take advantage of the advances in technology to find faster, more secure ways for us to part with our hard-earned cash. The most recent advance is in contactless payment, a faster way of paying that removes the need for loose change.
But whilst all those grubby coins can be annoying, the advantage of paying for small items with loose change is that you always know how much you’re spending. This highlights one of the main disadvantages with contactless payment – the ease with which us Brits notch up an average £948 spend each year in ‘invisible’ costs – coffee, lunch, a drink with friends, treats and those small items that tempt you when shopping. To put this into context, the average invisible spend each year would feed the average family for three months, it would pay for a London travel card for seven months and it would buy you a new smartphone and pay the bill for a year.
For some, a cashless life is already a reality. Some Swedish banks don’t deal with cash, less and less airlines will take cash for in-flight purchasing and you can only enjoy a meal in some US restaurants if you pay with plastic. A reality that will soon be hitting the UK. From the service providers’ point of view, this makes life easier, quicker and safer. And, based on the sudden rise in the value of Bitcoin following the outcome of the EU referendum vote, who knows what the future of virtual currency might be?
Pay by phone
Moving swiftly on, as is the future of money and our relationship with it, phone-based payment systems are rapidly gaining ground against plastic, with Starbucks alone reporting that some 17 million people use its app. Other companies are exploring app technology, not only to make life simpler and safer for everyone, but also because of the advantage of knowing how we spend our money. The benefit for the consumer is targeted coupons and personalised advertising – no more of those irritating ads for things you never buy.
Bluetooth technology may soon allow us to purchase via our smartphones (or watches) without needing to be near a checkout. In fact, checkouts might become a thing of the past, too. Try on some clothes, authorise payment via Bluetooth from the changing room, and you’re on your way without having to wait.
Other technologies that will help with everyday purchases
Then there’s Radio Frequency Identification. With RFID tags attached to items, there would be no more queuing to pay for the groceries. No more loading it all into the trolley, out of the trolley on to the conveyor belt, back into the trolley to get it to your car. The technology would simply register when your phone enters the store and check out everything via the RFID tags as you leave. Nothing could be simpler, and it would soon stop shoplifters in their tracks.
Although retailers can be slow to adopt new technologies, particularly where it proves expensive to convert, the benefits of RFID are immense. No more credit card transaction fees; no bank account details moving through the cloud, and nothing for hackers to make it worth the effort.
The Amazon Dash button similarly removes any need to organise payments and re-orders but this time, from your home. Once you have registered all of the appropriate details on the Amazon app you can simply reorder products from your home with a touch of the Dash Button.
The advance in biometric technology might also prove a useful route to cashless living. Lund University in Sweden is fitted with technology that allows students to pay with a scan of the veins in their hand – a more reliable method of identification than fingerprints. Iris scanning technology also holds possibilities.
So, as all these new technologies catapult us towards cashless living, how might our relationship with spending change? The way we pay is changing and that might affect the way we view our disposable cash. We will certainly need to re-evaluate the techniques that we use to help us budget in this new, cashless world.
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