The news about Sweden’s introduction of new bank notes and coins in
2015 and 2016 may be eclipsed by the fact that the Swedish people do
not seem interested in using them. A front page story in the New York
Times of Sunday Dec. 27 calls Sweden a nation “where even banks don’t
accept cash anymore.” The country, it is said, is quickly moving to a
cashless future, with young people in particular favoring cell phone
apps and plastic.
The article points out that only 2 percent of Sweden’s economy is
based on physical currency. This compares to 7.7 percent in the United
States and 10 percent in euro countries. In terms of consumer trade,
just 20 percent of Swedish transactions are in cash, compared to 75
percent in the rest of the world. Half of the country’s large banks do
not keep cash and do not accept deposits of it — providing for
significant savings in security costs. The amount of cash in
circulation is less than half of what it was in 2010, leaving massive
quantities of uncirculated currency perhaps wanted only by collectors.
A boon or a bane?