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Sweden's cashless society is no longer a utopia (weforum.org)
404 points by walterbell 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 582 comments

I'm a Norwegian who went to a Swedish music festival last summer.

I couldn't pay for a lot of things there, since the booths only accepted Swish (the only relevant Swedish mobile payment solution, it's a de facto monopoly). I couldn't sign up and use Swish on my phone, since it only accepts Swedish bank accounts. I couldn't borrow money from my Swedish friends either, since they didn't have cash (and it mostly wasn't accepted at the festival anyway).

When I could get someone to pay for me directly, transferring the money back to them was hard (since the festival didn't have any ATMs), so I had to go through the whole burdensome SWIFT procedure with getting their bank account number, their full name and address, their bank info, IBAN number of their bank etc, so I could send the money back when I got home to Norway.

Utopia my ass.

That reminds me of Futurama episode where Bender finds a phone booth: "Now I don't need to carry my phone with me all the time!"

Progress is sometimes a regress in disguise.

Reminds me of an old scifi story. Someone in a far future or advanced alien society runs across a paper book. "A means of conveying information without needing power and without the risk of surveillance? Excellent!" (paraphrased from memory).

There was also that (Asimov? Clarke?) story about a space ship which has its computer knocked out by a meteoroid and can't navigate back to Earth until someone on-board turns out to know how to use an abacus.

"Into the Comet", Arthur C Clarke (1960)

"The Feeling of Power" by Isaac Asimov also has a similar premise. It seems that the idea of forgetting basic mathematics due to computers was quite popular in science fiction at that time.


There a great Asimov story on these lines. Its called 'The fun they had'. Highly recommended. I read it aeons ago as a kid, and its stuck with me ever since.

I like How Wall-E played that concept really hard.

It did?


Captain is handed a manual when plant life is discovered. Took him a second to stop talking to the book and start using his hands on the pages. It was a pretty quick scene, but humorous.

Side note, the Wall-E short is great and one of the best Pixar shorts, imo.

Reminds me of this classic


I've noticed this with mature technology. There comes a point where a product is perfect, no need to add anymore features. But the manufacturer still wants to continue adding new features so that they can use those as new selling points. Unfortunately the new features end up making the product worse.

You mean like an electric toothbrush with Bluetooth?

I’d love to have been in the design meeting where thry decided that was more important than world voltage compatibility.

“World voltage are you mad? Who packs a toothbrush when they go travelling? Nope, what the people are clamering for is bluetooth support!”

Lack of world voltage is probably deliberate. Braun/Oral-B toothbrushes are usually cheaper in the US than in other countries (e.g. the UK) that use 220/240V. The UK-bought toothbrushes will work fine in the US.

I've had one US-bought base unit fail and, given the simplicity of the device (just coils for transforming voltage and induction charging) I'm assuming it's due to being plugged in to a 220V outlet for an extended period.

My toothbrush has a usb charger which I just use for travelling. Actually really handy as its just a cord so much smaller than a regular charger.

Nobody's happy with keeping things how they are anymore, unfortunately. Got to keep moving fast and keep breaking things, no matter how well they worked. Not introducing new features feels like stagnation to investors and shareholders.

2015 MacBook Pro was the peak for laptops.

2009 was the last time they sold a 17″ version.

2011, actually. I still use one.

I still wish they had produced a 17" with dual video outputs.

Except for the fact that you can't easily upgrade the ram or ssd? :P

What product has ever been perfect?

Almost anything that does one thing and does it well.

Smartphones today.

Smart phones today have a long way to go before they come even close to perfect

You can already see that manufacturers have a hard time to come up with new features. Stuff like thinner devices (nobody cares or wants this to a certain degree, compared to a better battery life), 3+ cameras, notches because for some reason you can't integrate speakers behind the display. "AI" stuff that doesn't work when you're offline.

I would trade all this shit for a week battery time.

So yes, while smartphones are not perfect, I see no intentions from developers to fix that.

The problem with prolonging long battery life, is that most people don’t care.

They are told what to buy from flashy ads and multimillion marketing budgets. Keeping the battery week keeps you tethered to your desk and requires you to think about every night b for bend)did I plug in my phone?)

Low battery drives usage. If you had a large weeklong battery, you might put your phone down every now and again without looking at it... a big no no for big tech.

The reason we don't have week long battery life is because it is difficult to do, not to keep eyes on screens. Most companies are actively working on longer battery life.

>nobody cares or wants this to a certain degree, compared to a better battery life

Then why do consumers constantly praise thinner phones, and continue to purchase them? I think you're mistaking what you want and consider a good choice compared to what everyone else actually wants and is willing to support.

Do they? I inhabit a very different bubble then as I've only heard complaints amongst my friends and workmates lately. Even formerly enthusiastic ones.

It reminds me of the 80s ghetto blasters fad. Size was the thing. As they got ever bigger they got far worse as there was so much resonant empty plastic and they distorted and rattled madly with volume anywhere over 2. Size and LEDs counted above all. Sound? LOL look at these LEDs man.

Most recent changes, from all manufacturers, have been deliberately consumer hostile. There's not much left to actually innovate with. Consumers don't want to keep swapping ecosystems - as that means hassle and re-buying a bunch of apps. Often they'd prefer not to even switch manufacturers if they've ended up using a cloud app for photos or something. So they just buy the next iThing from whoever even if it is too big, or is anti case because of edge to edge screens, or has a fake notch.

Talk about Emperor's new clothes.

So what can I choose that's against this trend? Oh. Nothing. Yet I need a phone, and probably an app or two for work. Best buy something or risk job loss. Even if I detest all the offerings as too big for any pocket I possess.

In your eyes it's a vote for thinner or bigger because a sale was made. No that's not how it works. It's not a simple commodity with only one feature to make, break, and validate the sale. To vote by not purchasing I'd have to cease having a mobile.

>Even if I detest all the offerings as too big for any pocket I possess.

What do you wear?

Err, just regular guy stuff. Nothing weird.

My current SE fits my biking gear pockets without fiddling, my previous Android was a bit fiddly. The one before that (my one attempt at a larger phone) fit properly in nothing I own except my winter coats. It had to live in my rucksack, so got left at home a lot, and on the desk through lunch breaks. No surprise that it wasn't many months before I Ebayed it and bought something sensible. :p

Anything bigger than the SE would sometimes fall out of my spring/autumn weight jackets if I just bent over or sat. All except SE got too big for comfort in back pocket of jeans any more. Especially as they get so thin and large as to be asking for a bent or broken phone.

I don't think that's so unusual? It's my other half who's pocket limited. :)

Because there is no alternative. It's not legit to say "people like thin smartphones more" when you are only making thin ones. Same for the headphone jack.

There are plenty of alternatives? In what market are there no alternatives to thin phones?

I think what we're seeing here is that companies optimise for the store shelf rather than for actual use. A thinner, bigger phone looks much more appealing in the store, which is where customers make the purchase decision. The disadvantages of that design (comparatively short battery life, does not fit into the pockets of my favorite pants) are only noticed later when the purchase has already been made.

The purchasing of the new best thing can also be the case, take for example that there hasn't been a flagship phone that actually fits in most peoples single hand since the SE and yet I know lots of people that will just "buy the next Iphone" because thats what they have done for 5 years with no consideration for ergonomics.

>take for example that there hasn't been a flagship phone that actually fits in most peoples single hand since the SE

Both my iPhone and Pixel 3 fit my hand. I'm 5'6.

> 3+ cameras

Having two back-facing cameras enables your phone to do computer stereo vision stuff, which are key for 3d sensing and augmented reality applications.

The notch is for the camera and face scanner. Nothing to do with speakers. Ditching the front facing camera might get you half an hour or so battery life I suppose.

But it spans the entirety of the speaker. If it's only the front camera and sensors the notch could be way smaller.

It does and they do take advantage of the notch with the speaker (why wouldn't they?), but that's not the reason for the notch to exist.

Apple discussed this in interviews after the X came out. They realized they needed somewhere for the camera and face scanner, so decided since they needed a notch anyway they would take full advantage by adding in those sensors and features that could make best use of it. The proximity sensor and speakers could have worked without a notch, but work better with it. These considerations, together with aesthetics related to balancing the size of the notch and the screen areas either side, were the driving factors.

Really? I think the smart phones we have are pretty brilliant and functional.

pretty much. nothing can be perfect for everyone. we still have room for advancement and refinement though and who knows of future breakthroughs.

Noot being able to upgrade the OS is a glaring design problem, so there's still work to be done.

I upgrade my OS all the time.

sounds like the iphone for the last 5 years

Just nitpicking, but I believe it was Hermes, not Bender. edit: https://external-preview.redd.it/QkC-IFnu4weXJdqXPJCgaswRHAy...

you are right. I'm sure Bender has always on internet connection, so he doesn't need a phone to make phone calls:)

He does get an eyePhone, though, and iirc he can be seen throwing away his previous phone because of it.

Plus a wired landline phone is always charged, with excellent reception.

POTS (plain old telephone service) is really amazing in many ways. Huge reliability, independent of the ordinary power grid, dead simple consistent UI, etc.

(I have an IP phone at work, and it's an unintuitive unreliable beast.)

Right. It’s no big deal for anyone if there’s no mobile signal but no dial tone is shocking. Even when there’s a power cut the landlines still work. I have probably only experienced an outage of POTS a couple of times in my life.

Nitpick: typically they have excellent reception. _However,_ with many copper lines not being maintained and especially in some rural areas, reception can be awful to unusable.

The backbone is increasingly digital or wireless.

We have landlines at one facility that are terrible. Loud hum on every call. Rural area with poor cell service too.

And it works most of the time, even if the power goes down, there are storms or floods, as long as the wired connection is not down. When NYC lost power in the early oughties, guess which phones were still working? Yep, the pay phones and the landlines. Most of the cell phones were dying or dead. That said, I don't have one but my parents still do.

Used to be, although at least Verizon is actively tearing out copper as fast as they can, so that they aren't subject to the old telco regulations.

And in the US can be had for like $10 a month as opposed to $30 minimum for verizon prepaid

Replacing the 3.5mm headphone jack with USB-C or Bluetooth, even when some devices seemingly have space to accommodate them easily. I hate progress for progress sakes.

And audio quality on most Bluetooth headphone/earphones sucks. And now I have to carry a zillion dongles for everything.

Removing the headphone jack was a ballsy move, and Apple certainly knew it would irritate many.

But wireless headsets is arguably much better (at least Apple thinks so). So kudos to Apple for having going out on a limb to support something they really believe un.

In Dune[0], they had Butlerian Jihad[1], revolution against an AI of the sorts. Hopefully in real world they'll outlaw nuclear weapons.

[0] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dune_(novel)

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butlerian_Jihad

You can have a very similar experience in China. So many things are now paid for by mobile wallets such as WeChat Pay that do not support foreign accounts. It's great for locals and for the government that - in an authoritarian country - gets unfettered access to all that personalized spending data. For tourists, not so much.

anyone can send money to your account if you hand them cash without linking card, only thing you need to create account it's phone number

plus cash it's also accepted everywhere

WeChat payments work fine with foreign cards...

Not really. It's very finicky at best. Activating a WeChat wallet requires a Chinese ID or a bank card, and the latter works very unreliably with any foreign cards.

I didn't try with WeChat but I did try with AliPay. You can register your non-Chinese card, but it will not let you pay with it.

No it doesn't. Not in mainland China. Who told you this?

That’s festival payment done wrong, but cashless can be really great at festivals.

In Denmark we have a festival called Skanderborg festival, and they build both your ticket and your cashless payment into the festival bracelet.

You use the bracelet to pay everywhere, and you can add money to it a range of payment methods, from using a visa or similar in their app, to visiting one of the cash places where you can use an atm and then add funds to your bracelet.

It’s easily the best payment experience I’ve ever had at a festival.

The best payment experience I’ve had is cash. I pay for what I need and when I leave the festival I can still use my “credits” hassle free anywhere I like.

Most of the cashless festivals return your unused "credits" pretty quickly after the festival.

The real problem comes when the system breaks down- which I've seen happen at plenty of festivals. At that point if cash isn't an option then commerce simply stops- screwing both vendor and customer alike.

Festivals I've been to will, say, require deposits of 100 peso increments and then the beers cost 80 pesos. And you can't get your money out.

Even if you could get your money back, you're still waiting at lines to recharge the bracelet. It's a joke.

With cash, you just come prepared and withdraw at any ATM long before the festival. Bracelets didn't solve any problem except disconnect the money handling event from the purchasing event so that you lose track of it, like how microtransactions are never priced in actual currency.

Why can’t you load the same amount of money on your bracelet before the festival as the cash you would be carrying?

If that’s because the festival organizers don’t let you retrieve your money easily or without a cost, that’s an issue with the festival management and not with the idea of digital money.

I’ve been to a festival which allowed us to withdraw money freely (I think they had some restrictions such as only 1 free withdrawal after the festival was over, and/or it had to be done within a week or so) but that allowed us to simply load in excess money so we never had to recharge. That worked really well for us.

> If that’s because the festival organizers don’t let you retrieve your money easily or without a cost, that’s an issue with the festival management and not with the idea of digital money.

The ability for poor implementations to exist is itself a strike against the general concept.

I think my problem with this comes down to ‘why the fuck are you bothering me with this?!’. We have perfectly valid working payment systems (cash, debit/credit), and for some reason you’ve decided that your festivals proprietary payment system is better?

Have to load money, have to retrieve money, and have zero insight into how much I’ve already spent without even more apps or interfaces.

> why the fuck are you bothering me with this?

Handling cash is a hassle in many ways:

1. It's slow. Obviously it is not slow in the best case when the customer throws in the exact change, but it is _really_ slow in the probably more typical case when the drunkard is at the counter and starts to dig into the pockets and find out if he has enough coins or when the seventh customer in the row wants to pay his ten cent lollipop with a hundred dollar bill and you run out of change.

2. It ties capital to keep sufficient amount of change in all of the booths.

3. It is difficult/expensive to manage securely and safely. You need to figure out how to stop personnel and other people stealing the money. Also your personnel likely feels more safe when they know that nobody can think that hey can come and try to steal money from you because you simply have none.

It's only slow because you are not used to paying with cash. Most payments are done with cash here, and the few people paying with cards cause small but noticeable delays. Counting cash is usually faster than handling a card reader, entering the PIN and whatnot. The odd drunkard or elderly customer is comparable to the odd technical problem, which usually takes longer to resolve.

I think it is also slow because the US does not require prices to be displayed including sales tax. If you pick something that has a marked price of $1, the total price will be somewhere between $1 and $1.10, depending on which state/city you are in, and what category of goods you are buying. Unless you are familiar with the exact tax code of your area, you won't be ready with exact change when paying. Even if you are, it means that you need to manage all the worthless pennies and nickels that result from paying with cash.

How is that faster than slapping my contactless card to the side of the card reader? 1 second and back to my wallet it goes.

Or if I'm feeling extra tech-y, I can do that with my watch or phone.

Where on earth do you live where things are this backwards?

1. Just don't accept any bill over €50 (this is common in shops too, no one expects to be paid for groceries or a beer at a festival in €100 bills). Most people are still pretty skilled in handling cash, although this is a declining skill. We've been doing cash transactions for centuries, we're still pretty good at it. The occasional slow-down is more than made up for by not having to charge or top-up your bracelet or what have you (you come prepared to the festival with cash).

2. A negligible amount for a vendor on a festival.

3. Not a problem on a festival. Booths tend to be manned by two persons because of other safety factors anyway, so staff stealing isn't an issue, and any organised criminality on a festival is usually limited to (relatively) low risk, high reward crime: pick-pocketing (smartphones in particular).

Oh, I agree it is a hassle for the merchant, but the fact that they’re making things more difficult for their customers remains the same.

And especially the ‘takes longer’ argument just shifts the time people are waiting to the charging station, or to their own homes, if they’re charging beforehand.

I think it’s fairly easy to make any change handling easy by making everything cost multiples of $1

also known as f-the-customer.

so use MasterCard/visa?

To add to that: because we all know that both parties know a working money system exists, then the most likely explanation for "why" becomes "because it is profitable for the festival host." The festival goer is tight to be naturally skeptical of sny alternative payment system (smart wristbands, "credit" cards, tickets/tokens).

Even if some transactions have extra friction such as ID checks for age-restricted purchases, the less intrusive solution is color coded "dumb paper" wristbands.

I suspect this allows the festival organizers to more easily take a cut from the merchants.

  have zero insight into how much I’ve already spent 
Maybe that's a key motivator?

not with the idea of digital money.

If every single actual implementation of an idea is bad then maybe the idea wasn’t such a great one either.

Contactless payments with a regular credit card are as far as this idea needed to go, everything else is either a gimmick or a rip-off attempt.

> Most of the cashless festivals return your unused "credits" pretty quickly after the festival.

for a $5 processing fee

With a delay of their choosing, and a conversion factor for those of us that aren't locals. Cash has frictionless instant settlement, which is very hard to compete with as a centralized payment processor.

> frictionless

Except when they have no change (forcing you to find someone willing to change it or wait for them to do so) or refuse to accept a large bill. I often choose to use cash, but it's really not frictionless.

It is quite liberating. My family went cash only a couple of years ago. We spend less and tbh there isn’t much downside.

I have some friends who find that they budget much more successfully when they use only cash... they can see exactly what they have left this week or month.

Really? I find it to be the exact opposite. I budget much better when I can see what I'm spending money on rather than how much cash I have on-hand.


Youre blaming victims - if system makes it harder for people to be in control this is systems property not peoples - youre making "fundamental attribution error".

They don't think they're victims, they think they found a system that works for them. And they don't think it should be what everyone does. I had no idea that such a simple story would attract such strong reactions.

Everything else being equal. If one payment system helps you budget better, then it’s clearly better than the other.

How do you buy online with cash only? I’m in the opposite situation, I pay everything with cards and I couldn’t be happier.

As much as I enjoy using cash, it isn't the best method. You have to carry it. You have to carry the change. The store had to have enough change. The store had to keep the pile of cash, and keep it safe. Then transfer it to my the bank at the end of the day or week or whatever. If you run out of cash on you, you have to figure out how to get more Cash had some nice features, like it is fairly anonymous. But it is far from perfect.

The best payment experience I've had is a credit card. It's harder to get robbed, I can pay everywhere with just a tap, I never need to remember to take out cash, tips are computed for me at my request, when I travel to many other countries I don't even need to get local currency, conversion happens automatically, and I'm not stuck with unused local currency when I leave.

Credit cards was how this all started in Sweden. Cash usage has been going down since the late 1990s, and the Swish thing is fairly new, we still use credit cards mostly, but swish is popular for smaller establishments or temporary events and such. You cant transfer money to your friends using a CC, but swish solves that. Its basically a national, private owned, Paypal, and that is the problem. Everybody uses it. My fiancee works at a school cafeteria, and Swish is the only accepted payment method. Not even credit cards work there.

Credit cards can be used virtually. It is easier to get robbed.

All your fraudulent credit card transactions will be cancelled if this happens. Not so with cash.

The trouble with cash is that you cannot really control high-school dropouts to charge $10 for a $2 beer without skimming a bit on the side. Hence this whole "here's some fake money that only works here" BS.

Just do an incorrect inventory. Some venues let workers do inventory and reporting. They are charging for the cup itself and that is how they determine sales. If a stack of cups disappears, there is no reconciliation.

Music venues have some interesting procedures, Alpine valley allows under an oz of weed to be brought in. They have college girls carrying backpacks with 40k in cash. There is an off duty cop directly behind though.

Can you elaborate on that second paragraph? I don't understand how those things are related to each other.

Why do they allow weed to be brought in? Why do they have college girls carrying cash in a backpack? Why so much cash? Why is there an off-duty cop following her around? Isn't an off-duty cop just an ordinary member of the public? If a cop is required shouldn't it be an on-duty cop? If it's somehow a trap to catch drug dealers, how is it meant to work? Why do they limit the amount of weed? And why are they trying to catch drug dealers at all?

Back in HS I worked at an amusement park for a summer. On a busy night, if I closed the booth, I'd be walking out the park's employee exit around 2am, through a somewhat busy and not-very-well-lit public area of the parking lot, and across to the admin offices with 30k+ in a plastic bag. That was not an uncommon amount for most of the non-token booths, and having 16-18 year old kids carrying it out of the park to the admin building was also common, since that was most of the park's work force.

I'd guess the "college girls carrying 40k in cash in a backpack" were employees carrying cash out from whatever business/booth they were running and taking it to their bank or head office or whatnot, and the "off-duty" cop behind them was there acting as a security guard; since that's a somewhat common side gig for cops, and in may places, they're still given all the power and authority an "on duty" cop has.

I don't get the connection to the weed (legal or otherwise, it has never been an interest of mine), but perhaps it explains the other bit.

Sorry the weed bit was unrelated. More of an example of the weird world of a music venue. They basically didn't care if it was for personal use, but they didn't want people that were clearly going to deal. It wasnt in the employee handbook, just kind of an unspoken rule.

As for the second part, off duty cops would moonlight as security guards. And the college girls could blend in. With the large crowds it was a way keep a low profile for making cash pickups from the dozen different beer/food stations. It's pretty smart. You would never think twice.

Pretty trivial to solve... sell drink tickets.

Isn't that just replacing cash with monopoly money?

No, you have the stoners pour beer and don’t let them handle cash. The people who handle cash don’t handle beer.

It’s a fairly typical internal control for that type of operation.

Generally, the purpose of the drink-ticket model is to ensure accurate sales reporting so that the festival or venue gets its full "cut".

Killer feature for me is that the same amount of physical mass can hold any amount of value.

Spending some cash sometimes increases the complexity of my pocket considerably, which is fine in practice and all, but just feels wrong to part of my brain.

Counterpoint, the best place to spend counterfeit money is a music festival....and then it gets passed down to you. I've picked up a half dozen counterfeits at music festivals. Sucks if you're not really paying attention.

Maybe a problem for you, never had that experience, nor do I know a single person who had that happen. I have many friends who go to festivals.

Every time I was at a festival there were some problems with ATMs not working, having no cash left etc.

I’d rather have the bracelet solution and don’t have to worry about having 100 coins in my pockets or losing my wallet.

Until you run out of cash on hand or it gets lost or stolen....

If it does, you go to the bank and get more cash.

If your card gets stolen however, you go to the bank, fill out a ton of forms, pay a fee for losing your card. Wait a few days for your new card to be delivered in the mail. And then, finally can you pay again. In the meanwhile, you are forced to pay with... cash! Which nobody accepts, because not having a debit card is socially unacceptable in our society.

I lost cards many times. Never been asked to pay a fee to get new card. No forms to fill out either. You just call them, tell them you need new card and they send it.

That's fine when you are at home - quick and painless.

But try losing your card overseas and see how you feel then... Especially if you have to put a stop on your card... Slow and very painful...

Unless you have a spare you'll be asking a friend to use Western Union for bridge finance.

But try losing your card overseas and see how you feel then...

Depends on the card. With Amex or Diners Club it’s not a problem.

Last time I had to ask for a new card, I had to wait for one month, I was happy to be have family members lending me cash.

> you go to the bank and get more cash.

Not sure which country you are talking about but the vast majority of people go to an ATM not the bank to get cash. You still need a debit card to get cash from an ATM.

In my country I can withdraw cash from the machine as I pay for shopping at the supermarket. And I'm not saying I withdraw cash then pay. I pay with the card AND the cash I withdrew comes out after the transaction is complete.

I haven't been to a bank for getting cash in 10 years. And as you say, ATMs are where you get cash.

We can do that here in the Mid-South, too. Got a story you might like. The customer, service desk which allows some cash back for free was packed. So, I had to go to register with something to buy. I tried to minimize the cost overall for a $500 withdraw at a company with $100 max per transaction. I hit their self checkout. I did five orders on the machine each with a single grape. Each order was one cent plus $100 cash back. Total transaction cost was five cents.

Self-checkout person was going "what the hell?" on that one. I also heard her talking to others about being hungry from break being delayed. I gave her the grapes after explaining what I was doing. She was happy, too. Probably did it herself at some point haha. Cashiers trip out to this day if I tell them about that whenever someone is buying a candy bar or something to get cash back. Occasionally, person in line leaves to get a grape. Just one. :)

Hence, if your wallet is stolen, you go to the bank, not the ATM.

But I actually assumed just the cash was gone. Either bank or ATM works fine in that situation.

No different to anything getting lost of stolen, and a bracelet is less likely to get lost or stolen.

> a bracelet is less likely to get lost or stolen.

You meant 'more', right?

We are in agreement. I was just stating some tradeoffs to physically carrying money that weren't mentioned.

What a novel idea

Those system don't have to follow the same regulations as banks and thus have many more ways to extra money that might not be as obvious. Money when converted to tokens and credit are not money in the eye of the law, even if it is used identically to money and is the only currency allowed.

If you are lucky they will return any unused credit automatic to your credit card without any fees. I would like to know how common that is and what kind of terms and conditions most such system has. My cynicism tells me its about as abusive as they can get away with but to be fair I have not tested it (since I either refuse to prepay on principle or only get the exact amount I have decided to already spend).

Some discussion about this on Jamie Zawinski’s blog two years ago (link via Facebook for Reasons):


In Denmark we have a festival called Skanderborg festival, and they build both your ticket and your cashless payment into the festival bracelet.

Disney does that at Disneyland and Disney World in America: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/plan/my-disney-experience/...

You can also use it to unlock you hotel room and to link to those photographs that are taken of you when you're on the rides.

The main difference being that Disney has multiple backup systems, including switching to a completely manual process in case their network or servers are offline.

I watched a presentation on this, and it's actually very interesting how they manage the ride experience so that even during a system outage they can still let people get on the rides.

Which happens so very very rarely. It’s an amazing process.

Is this presentation available online? I'd be very interested in watching it too.

Sorry, I saw Disney's CIO speak at a tech conference, but I don't believe it was recorded.

There’s a big club in NYC that does this (Brooklyn Mirage), except they link your credit card to the bracelet and you don’t have to load credit.

Makes the lines for drinks move so fast, it’s really outstanding.

Is it really much faster than contactless credit cards?

I can see value for certain specialist places, like a resort where everyone is wearing swimwear. Or a fetish club.

Contactless cards never took off in the US. I have 8 or 9 cards and don’t think any of them are contactless. So you can’t assume that everyone will have a contactless card and at that point you’re back to accepting swipes and cash.

By introducing a new payment method they can be sure that everyone has access to it and limit it to just the bracelets.

Do you have a pin or something to verify the payment? Would a stolen bracelet be useable?

How do they deal with tips?

You create a pin when you activate your card/wristband after walking in, yeah.

At the Mirage, tips work just like a credit card transaction would - the bartender has an iPad sitting in front of them and you choose preset options or enter a custom one.

Typically you place your order with the bartender, they'll ring it all up on the terminal, and by the time you've finished tapping your wristband on the reader and choosing a tip amount the bartender is done making your drinks. No hassle with pens and receipts and handing cards around or any of that.

Out of all the festivals, etc, I've been to where they do wristband-based payment instead of accepting cards directly, Avant Gardner / Brooklyn Mirage have the best setup IMO.

Apparently Billfold is the vendor: https://www.billfoldpos.com/

> No hassle with pens and receipts and handing cards around or any of that.

Is there normally hassle? In Europe, and I think this generalisation holds in the countries that commonly pay with a card, the terminal is either mounted on the bar facing the customer, or is portable and left in a similar position.

In any case, there's never a pen, receipts mostly go immediately in the bin unless someone is claiming expenses, and the card never leaves the customer's hand.

So it's little different from a contactless bracelet, except I trust Europay-MasterCard-Visa more han a POS supplier.

It helps that there are no tips. If the number on the screen looks reasonable, I don't touch the terminal at all.

The pen thing for signatures is a US phenomenon. Where we have debit cards (contactless and without the need for a PIN even for small amounts in a growing number of countries), they are stuck with a very slow, reluctant transition to PIN-and-chip; something the rest of us did in the late nineties.

The upside is that the US is at this point better at holding on to the principle of being able to use cash everywhere in addition to other payment options; something that is starting to become a problem in Europe.

Most places running newer POS terminals have switched to digital signatures on the screen, which is much nicer... but some bars (especially nightclubs where they don't want bright POS terminal screen shining in your face) still do paper receipts with pen signature, yeah.

Outside of nightlife and restaurants, I almost never deal with paper signatures anymore. Pretty much all retail, etc, does digital signatures and digital receipts, paper receipt upon request.

Its still pretty backwards compared to how most things credit card related work in Europe, but gets the job done and is indeed gradually getting better over here (and, as some of the other posts have mentioned, the saving grace if you don't want to deal with any of this is that cash is almost universally accepted).

> You create a pin when you activate your card/wristband after walking in, yeah.

I wonder how many make theirs 1234

Especially since you're drunk/high or will be very soon and won't be able to remember any more complex code.

A lot of POS systems capable of this don’t allow seqential or repeating digits.

Better than making it the same pin that your card is at least

In Estonia we had something similar but instead of letting us top up via app or card remotely, you had to stand in line at a booth and give them the money and then register your bracelet online to get the refund of any additional funds left on at the end of the process. I get what they were going for but it felt like a ton of friction to me, all to eliminate a single swipe at the payment terminal?

They wanted to also do that for M'era Luna in 2016 and I wasn't very much looking forward to that, hearing it in 2015 - might be because I read about them tracking your movement and having your payment history at the festival. Suddenly cash was really convenient again to me.

Yeah I agree. Was at sziget this summer and we could pay using our bank cards NFC and you don't have to input pin for payments under 15€. Also we could pay with festival's bracelet. This is THE BEST expirience. Easy for staff and for customers

Same with Sziget Festival in Budapest!

How do you get money off the bracelet?

In my (limited) experience, you go to their website, enter your bank account details and some days/weeks after the festival when they've processed everything they send it via Swift to your bank (if in EU, haven't tried for a foreign account)

Every time people talk about a cashless society, I tell them about stuff like this both abstractly and concretely, and then I just get called a luddite. I think, unfortunately, that people will have to learn this lesson the hard way. I don't own a working smartphone, my last one (like the one before it) failed randomly in the display, and was unjustifiably difficult to RMA (no box provided, no postage, unclear details on how to mark). I don't get why people want to use these cumbersome, life-running pocket computers to control access to their money on a day-to-day basis. Here in

Canada we have Interac, which is mostly everywhere, but we also have cash, and three or four credit networks (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and sometimes Discover). There are only really three physical modes of operation, and they all have a time and a place: Tap card 95% of the time, insert and use pin when fraud detection gets a funny feeling, and use cash when all else fails (because sometimes that means you have to call up your creditor's fraud department and let them know you're just on a roadtrip, your card hasn't been stolen).

I don't think requiring a smartphone to accomplish what chip & pin and NFC cards do just fine is an upgrade.

Then these people talk about making state payment processors. What happens when fraud prevention completely stops you from being able trade any money? Do they drive out to fix your problem on the spot? How on earth could they expect that to work out well?

> I don't think requiring a smartphone to accomplish what chip & pin and NFC cards do just fine is an upgrade.

Agreed. Though I also don't think that this was suggested anywhere in the article?

If you want a mapping to your situation, your wallet could have an additional card reading "Bank of Canada" next to your Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover cards.

What you describe as "just fine" sounds a lot like the US, except that most transactions have enormous fees tacked on by credit card companies. Maybe in Canada you have negotiated better deals.

Even though the situation in Europe in fragmented, it's a lot cheaper for merchants.

> it only accepts Swedish bank accounts

I have a Swedish bank account, but I still can't use Swish because I have an American phone. It's infuriating.

Huh? You can get Swish on the App Store or Google Play for any country, and it works with any phone number, Swedish or not.

The only requirements are that you

1) have a Swedish bank account that supports the service (not all banks do), and

2) have Mobilt BankID on your phone.

If you possess a Swedish bank account and are in the Swedish Population Register, you should be able to get Mobilt BankID on your phone (which is, like Swish, an app available on the App Store everywhere) with your Internet bank and then set up Swish.

> Huh? You can get Swish on the App Store or Google Play for any country, and it works with any phone number, Swedish or not.

That sounds like it makes it impossible for any other phone OS to enter the Swedish market.

To a degree. A bigger issue would actually be BankID, which is the secure online authentication service in Sweden, used by banks, government, insurance companies, etc.

But there are still, somehow, banks in Sweden which don't support one or the other. And, well, useful as Swish is, it's not actually obligatory for life in Sweden.

For what it's worth, BankID and Swish also support Windows Phone… for the remainder of 2018, anyway.

Depending on your bank you might need a Swedish phone number, but you actually don't need a phone to receive money. (In reality the phone number has nothing to do with it, it's just a pre-existing ID)

You need the app to be able to send money though (iOS, android or windows phone).

Yes it is stupid. Unfortunately it is convenient, which is enough for 95% of the population.

In other words, it became the civic responsibility of all the Swedes at the festival to ensure that foreigners-- who had no access to goods/services-- were properly fed, hydrated, and housed.

Actually, this sounds like it could become a utopia given the right social strategy by the Swedes. They just need to buy beers, lunches, and festival tickets for the kinds of tourists they desire. Then ignore the loud obnoxious ones who will become hungry and irritated and end up leaving early and never coming back to Sweden.

Of course the risk is that it is even more cost effective in the short term for the citizenry to become xenophobic.

Aren't you asking a bit too much info for a simple SEPA transfer ? The IBAN should be all you really need, the rest are nice to have.

I've heard that too, but my bank (Sbanken, normally a good user friendly bank) wouldn't let the payment go through without all the fields filled out.

IBAN == bank account number with the bank info baked in, although I think for foreign transfers you might still have to provide the bank code separately.

I've never been asked for an address when doing a wire transfer.

From what I've heard banks stopped validating the name field a long time ago and you can enter whatever you want.

My Finnish bank has always (10+ years) asked for the full recipient address when I've entered a foreign IBAN (even within EU). Just tested that it still does.

I don't think they validate it, though, IIRC I've gotten away with simply putting in "Germany".

Did you use "foreign payment" or just pay as if it were a domestic payment?

I don't remember seeing issues in SEPA area, if I just use the IBAN and pay like any normal payment. If I am specifically doing a "foreign payment" some extra fields need to be filled in. That is how I recall the process, last time was 1 year ago though.

No, I used the normal "domestic" payment form. It detects a foreign IBAN and then dynamically adds the extra mandatory address fields on the page.

Here in NL, the name field recently has gotten even stronger validation. I think this coincided with a system where minor spelling mistakes are corrected by a suggested "Did you mean ...?"

I suppose that would be because of EU regulations against money laundering.

Definitely not, because a few of my banks allow it without a problem.

Same here, I did a bunch of SEPA transfers between two EU countries last year, and all they asked was for the IBAN.

Sweden is not in eurozone, so SEPA credit transfers have limited usage there; the full SEPA process works only for EUR-to-EUR transfers.

It's also free for €-to-€ transfers. I paid for accommodation in Switzerland this summer from the Netherlands, and was glad that the proprietor didn't mind me transferring the deposit in Euros instead of Francs; the cost of sending an amount in Francs to Switzerland is quite high!

True, but that doesn't weaken his point.

It removes the entire second paragraph. It takes about 5mn to do a SEPA bank transfer: open banking client, open transfers, create new transfer, enter destination IBAN, enter amount, optionally set a data & some text, confirm.

Which is much longer than handing someone a 10 euro note.

That would be of limited value to someone in Sweden, which uses the krona. Automatic currency conversion is one of the advantages of electronic payments over cash.

And then you wait 3 days for the money to actually arrive. I frequently send money between EU countries and the speed of transaction is abysmal unless you want to transfer to be denominated in Euro which means that if you're sending money between two non-euro currencies you're losing money twice.

SEPA is for euro-denominated bank accounts. That's what the E is.

You can send a sepa transfer out of a non-euro denominated bank account to another non-euro denominated account, but it will get converted to Euro first. That's why I said you get charged twice - once at origin and again at the destination. And you might want to do that if you want the speed of a SEPA transfer - regular inter-bank transfers between different EU countries still take days to process.

So assume he's an Aussi and paste that second paragraph back.

Nice to have a tendency to escalate. Certain things have a tendency to creep along the nice-to-have-|-must-have continuum. IMO, digital money generally does.

Atleast 99% of my payments in sweden are with a totally normal credit card, the rest with swish. I only use paper money to give to homeless people, can’t remember when I bought something with bills and coins. I think it’s great, I’m more worried about tax evasion than my government knowing what I buy. I’m more interested in my speech being free than my purchases, even though I can see the problem in non-functioning democracies and dictatorships.

Its not just the government that has this data, but every intermediary in the non-cash payment chain. Mastercard for example sells its payment data to Google, who uses it to correlate online ad viewing with in store purchases. There is no way to opt out of this if you use Mastercard, and other intermediaries do similar shady things with your data.

IF you can’t opt out of this in EU then it goes against GDPR (actually they must let you opt in). It would be interesting to dig deeper here.

You actually can opt out. There is a hidden online form, I saw it once.

but such purchase is untraceable to you as PII. neither google nor mastercard learns the linkage details to the data the other holds, they just learn that data is linked.

you can opt out by not using your gmail account as an addres on your mastercard.

and i believe there’s an explicit opt out as well.

this measures conversion but in a privacy safe way, so it’s actually good thing.

the google implementation that is. i guarantee anyone else doing this (i haven’t heard of such though) is leaking data like crazy

Ooo nasty...

Just today I went to a concert in Malmø where the bar is cash only. This is a medium sized place.

You can withdraw cash by credit card at the ticket desk, to take to the bar and pay for drinks. It's annoying for people like me, occasional visitors from Denmark.

I don't know why they don't have the chip and pin terminal at the bar.

They would have to pay commission on every transaction to whoever owns the terminal and the network.

Actually they pay about the same commission for cash (yes!) when they take it to the bank.

You have to pay someone to take away the cash and its often slower than tapping your card on a reader.

I have not said that it is not worth it. But it really depends on the business and the arrangement. Some banks charge you a fixed minimum rate making small purchases relatively more expensive for the seller.

But receiving cash also carries a lot of cost

People tip a lot more when paying in cash. Also, they can pocket some of the cash payments and avoid taxes.

How do you even buy a surprise gift for your wife? Or something she does not "need" to know about?

Not being snarky, but there are homeless people in Sweden? In the US we're regaled with tales of the Scandanavian social safety nets. We're told everyone is taken care of. That's not the case?

Those that want help can get it — you can’t force help on everyone, and you need to be a legal citizen. Some are visiting from other EU countries.

And some from non EU countries.

Some men from Macedonia slept opposite my apartment in Copenhagen for a while in the summer. They get enough donations from passers by to keep them supplied with alcohol, and somehow avoid being deported (or return soon after?).

People may also beg even though they have a home.

Interesting that they can't force people into help. Some Western democracies have provisions for forcing people into help: UK with the previous ASBO laws, US with wards of the state, and even San Francisco targeting 100 "most hopeless homeless" to be forced into help.

It's very odd to me that you need to be a citizen to get benefits. California takes care of everyone -- citizen or not.

I’m sorry for the irony in the following paragraphs, but here is how i read this post:

Thanks to the world renowned U.S social saftey net everyone get looked after!

This is why you for example never see any homeless people in SF or LA. If you happen to stumble upon a rare occurence of a person sleeping on the steets, you can be sure it’s at least a US citizen.


No, but seriously, it is true that Sweden (and social _democracy_ in general) is a way of forbidding citizens to live in extreme poverty, to the benefit of everyone.

This is not imposed on the citizens themselves but rather the state.

We do this by having the state make sure there are provisions in place to TRY to take care of everyone. You might have to be able to navigate the society to some extent though, something that can be especially hard for individuals with mental illnesses or drug addiction (in many ways these are ofc connected).

It can also be true if you are actually not a citizen.

This has been my experience going on holiday in the Netherlands. Everything functions on cards and touch payments.

I’m living in Japan where everything is cash, and it’s just such a culture shock to go to a place where I cannot simply pay for everything with cash...

There are many ways in which Japan is more civilized than Sweden is.

Speaking as a Swedish native who lived in japan for years

Cash is not one of those things though. Nor is the system of buying metro tickets with cash only and without an option to change language.

Metro tickets with cash only seem fine to me. What is your problem with that?

I believe inside of Tokyo almost all the machines also support a variety of languages now, but there might be a scattered few with only Japanese.

I just left Osaka yesterday. I didn't use every machine, but I never found one that didn't support English.

There is a big "English" option. Plus other languages as well.

I might have been unlucky then, but the one machine I was in contact with before I ceded all responsibility on my host was Japanese only.

> Utopia my ass

It actually IS a Utopia, by Thomas More's original definition; a society that appears idyllic and perfectly organised on the surface, but is only maintained in that state by everyone doing what they're supposed to do. And that is achieved by enforcing total compliance through surveillance and coercion.

The point of the book is that the reader really wouldn't want to live in Utopia once he understands the misery it requires.

You are correct, but I am sure the parent poster meant "utopia" in the more commonly interpreted way... a heavenly place of sort.

I fail to see how Sweden in this case is enforcing the cashless trends through surveillance or coercion.

The primary cited reason for the cashless trend is the security against money laundering. My government has done every policy and regulative action they can to guarantee that all money transaction is recorded and a bank liable if anything is not clean.

The first time I experienced a cashless store was Amsterdam in 2013. It was a fast food restaurant. Of course at first I was a little upset but it did get me thinking what are the advantages to the store

The store no longer has to go to the bank to get heaps of change

The store no longer has to take money to the bank

The store will have no money on premises so less of a target for robbery

The store will have no money on premises so no having to trust employees not to take some.

Nothing to account. Just read the total.

In almost every way, as long as there are enough customers it's a win for the store. Many customers love it too. Most of my western friends visiting Japan get annoyed they can't go cashless in Japan because they're used to being cashless where they are from.

I did run into my first no-cash accepted store here recently. It will be interesting to see how it goes in Japan as they are more privacy oriented.

I agree with all the issues of going cashless. It scares the crap out of me, especially when traveling. But, I can't see it not happening relatively quickly.

Japan has electronic money cards which can be bought and refilled without any identifying information, and they are widely accepted. They're in a better place for privacy than the West.

The primary cited reason for the cashless trend is the ability for shops to simply say no. Anti-money laundry laws trickle down from EU level.

And the most obvious reason for the cashless trend is that cashless is easier and more fruitful for buyer and seller. Buyer just touches their card/phone to the machine. Who likes dealing with cash? (Answer: Germans)

Also Greeks, Italians and most the Europeans I know. Cashless is a Northern European thing I would say.

Edit: Please comment if things are different in your non-Swedish country (considering Europe here, but curious about other countries of course).

It’s almost the same in Norway, but I think/hope it is easier for foreigners. You link your VISA to use Vipps, where you can pay is most bars, restaurants, taxi etc. One reason that Vipps (came before Swish?) is not booming in Norway could be because we have almost 0% fee on our cards. This is because all the banks have come together to make BankAxccept, just to avoid the fees that VISA and MasterCard use.

I see no need for using Vipps or ApplePay. I place my bank card on the terminal and it is paid, with no fees. If it is over $20 I have to enter the pin. Super simple.. Me and my wife actually laught when we find coins in old jackets, because we haven’t seen coins in months. Almost forgot how they look and feel.

That's mostly tax dodging though. Many EU countries have that baked in to the tax regime. If it was actually enforced (a la cashless) the entire e.g. Belgian restaurant sector would disappear overnight. Everyone there knows it. It's kinda weird.

It is worth noting that the article describes how private sector decisions are crowding out cash, how the government (specifically the central bank) is concerned about this, and considering to deliver a solution (namely digital cash issued by the central bank).

The system is still based on central bank currency in the background. What is being lost is direct consumer access to central bank currency: they must rely on private-sector intermediaries.

Actually, if use of cash can be denied, then yes, coercion for using cards could be established. Are Swedish businesses allowed to reject cash? I think I read they can in that article.

Coercion: "To force to act or think in a certain way by use of pressure, threats, or intimidation; compel."

So if I'm down the street and cash won't let me get on a bus, the movie tickets can't be purchased, food can't be bought etc. There's the basis for pressure. Can't buy food without card, ok you go hungry. There's the threat. I'm sure that intimidation will turn up in a lot of little ways. Public ostracism / humiliation (even at subtle levels) due to not having a card could be seen as real enough to count. The network effects of not having a card will likely cause serious inconvenience.

If "you can't do anything without a card" then you are compelled to get one.

Sounds like coercion to me.

Lots of oppressive regimes and policies throughout 20th century had large popular support too, and people opted-in to them.

Exactly, this is not stated enough. We have to grow up with our relationship with political systems, authoritarianism even dictatorship: it happens because of some population dynamics which we may or may not be currently be participating in or regularly encounter. So sure, the question of why cashless has taken off there is interesting, but maybe more importantly we need to think about the current state, what could be the next moves (the consequences), do we want to influence it and targeting what?


But thinking about currencies and economy in europe is always kinda doomed because the euro is double-locked. No national economic policy actually has a meaning since at most your gonna leverage some power to influence the ECB, but you're never gonna be the one to actually decide. So there is a complicated combat to do cross european countries saying ok we have to re-found the mission and the organization of the ECB, the relationship with national economies. How do we want to keep down inflation: just maintain growth in face of other world economies that actually grow or make ourselves more independent, what do we do when countries have diverging interests, how do we make sure it's regulated and we keep control on it?

I would vouch for a system where euro exists but is restricted to cross-country corporate business and easy traveling: common credit card system where you can transparently withdraw any participating national money at the current nation negociated exchange rate (eg federating by having a star topology instead of a complete graph for exchange rates: "we treat all the others the same"). Additionally the BCE should have a second decision instance (two-chamber-like) basically being the european budget commission but elected by people, not chosen by governments, to ease cross-country political action. And on a more technical/practical level we have to rethink about wire transfers. I don't know much about how SEPA works but it's probably interesting to take a look.

Every country in your system would have to use their own currency again because if banknotes are the same and (example) the German Euro is stronger than the French one (that would mean everything on Germany is cheaper than in France), the French would hoard all the Euro banknotes they can get their hands on and buy stuff in Germany. Traveling to Germany is not for everybody but there would be companies doing mass transfers of money and goods for the rest of the population. By the way, this is why the Eurozone authorities try to make every country align on debt, growth, etc, which is pretty hopeless given so many governments with different pools of voters and agendas. Like having the USA with a powerless president (who knows who's the EU president), camera and senate and governors trying to agree on everything with basically no cross country political party.

It also looks a little like those countries with their own national currency but also everyone accepting USD. Tourists can carry dollars, lose a little by unfavorable rates at every payment, maybe end up with change in the local currency to use in the next shop. I remember that on vacation in Uzbekistan.

I'm not sure i understand your scenario: germany arguably has a more powerful economy than france, so DM would have a lower exchange rate towards euro than FF towards euro. So imho things in france would actually be cheaper (as seen from germany). Anyway, for that we have customs (everyone has some sort of customs, this doesn't mean strong borders for people). And more generally i don't want any "US of europe": the ratio between in-country similarity and cross-country similarity is far to high across europe to let down economic sovereignty (different demographics, different cultures, different economies, i mean this is great but it implies some restrictions on what political structure can reasonably work). If we have a unique economic policy, this will just end up simply being the policy of some dominating nation inside EU (and that's currently the case, more or less around a strong germany), and this ends up destabilizing politically all the others. I believe that a well functioning european union should be a federation of states that eases any wanted coordination and not a single federated state enforcing unwanted coordination (which benefits no one but the nation that happens to be in a de facto power position in the federation). A wannabe strong federated state would only exacerbate power positions, thus weakening the power of the group with regard to the outside world[#].

[#] This is a well-known social/evolution dynamic: group selection. Bees suicide when attacking: individually it's a weak behavior, but globally it makes the group more resilient. The balance between cooperation and competition is a balance between individual power and group power. Europe is a group of groups, so the balance is weirder but having too strong cooperation at the top level (eg enforcing a common economic policy) will weaken countries. But only some countries because of non-homogeneity, thus destabilizing everything by lowering local national resilience (to specific local concerns, which do exist). So i believe we have to accept that we need slightly stronger countries to make the european union stick together.

Maybe the near monopoly of the payment network is the coercion?

Some people would say that consumers are free to avoid vendors that don't accept cash, but in practice this "freedom" is actually a huge cost, in terms of time and mental overhead and lack of choice.

The danger is that society as a whole ends up making sub-optimal decisions because each person is (selfishly / rationally) choosing to avoid these extra costs.

Powerful entities (even those falling short of absolute monopolies) probably get away with a lot more societal harm than they would if we were more aware of this "coercion of convenience".

"either use Swish or go without food/water/travel/etc" is coercion by any definition

Food is payed with VISA och Mastercard. Water is payed through the online banking service. Travel with VISA/Mastercard (even local buses accept credit cards). "Etc" is also payed with VISA or Mastercard. Swish is a mere conveniency for transferring money without having to log onto your online banking service. I use it once a month tops.

I think not having a bank account is unthinkable in a place like Sweden. Thanks to the strong social safety net and extremely restrictive immigration policy they don't have abject poor. At worst you're lower middle class and can get a bank account.

It does seem to be a bad deal for tourists however. I'm surprised that companies are apparently so quick to ditch traditional credit cards.

But companies aren’t ditching credit cards, we’re just using “contact less”/Apple Pay/etc. more. When Swish is used by a company (I’ve only seen a couple), they’re either super-cheap or gimmicky.

What happens if you don't have visa/mastercard or even a bank account?

What happens if you don't have cash? Answer: you get cash, because most shops won't barter.

Same thing here.

What jappens when the electricity is out? In a Katrina or Maria (hurricanes) scenario.

All regulations that are enforced are coercive by definition. The regulations that create a de facto monopoly are coercive.

I would guess some surveillance is involved in terms of audits of banks, but it might not fit the technical definition of surveillance.

In this case it's a lack of regulation though. Stores are not coerced into accepting cash, so they choose what's most practical to them.

You have a severe lack of imagination. You must be fun at parties.

There are a myriad of ways Sweden can and probably is enforcing cashless trends through surveillance and coercion. Encouraging banks and retailers to refuse cash services, as referenced in the article, is likely done by the government. This enhances their ability to track and control all monetary transactions for any number of reasons (nefarious or otherwise).

Personal attacks will get you banned here. Please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and don't post like this again.

> You must be fun at parties.

Can we, as a society, just stop saying that?

Australian who travelled through Sweden and Norway in September of this year for two weeks.

I just used contactless payments on my credit card the entire time and never had any issues. To me it seems more like Swish-specific issues rather than cashless in general? However, if some people are disadvantaged by different cashless options then that is a definite issue.

There will always be other solutions at hand, these guys are doing something about it: https://www.revolut.com

Same as swish but no need for Swedish banks nor BankID.

I use Swish extensively because it works for giving kids cash remote and at the same time buying a car. If I would stumple on someone who is unable to use it it would be troublesome, but I think most swedes would break their neck to solve it anyhow in that case. If they know they have the possibility.

Bank transactions between countries have always been a burden, I so hope that we will see big change in the near future.

Monzo is so much better, but UK only. Revolut in the US is super expensive to top up

There are fintech companies that make transfers between countries painless and cheap.

The locked down nature of Swish and it’s monopoly status is worrisome. I was thinking there was just a ton of NFC readable payment devices that could accept any form of contactless payment like Apple Pay or Alipay or Google Pay etc... this is definitely not a good sign.

Regarding the article saying that if central banks become irrelevant due to cash going fully out of favor: that’s such BS. Deposits would just become credits from central banks to lending banks private or not so that customers could get credit and pay for goods digitally. No exchange of paper money is ever needed.

There’s already orders of magnitude more money in asset valuations than there is paper money to back them in the world economy why should we hold back because we are so fixated on paper currency. With the advent of token based contactless payment services like how Apple Pay works the future is secure payments without cash and those burndensome coins I have to handle while getting Che he after a purchase.

Lastly, if things go digital fully it could mean that securing and auditing and processing could be even cheaper and could allow for entrants that can still profit on transaction processing but at much lower rates than the current incumbents charge retailers.

It’s the opposite here in Germany. Some places have support for contactless payment, take credit cards, etc., but most even if they do prefer you to pay with cash as it’s cheaper for them. There’s also this German only banking alliance where they have put forth a EC card that has very low to no fees for participating entities as the funding and processing is all done in Germany amongst the member financial institutions. But my N26 account doesn’t offer one so I’m out of luck there.

The thing is the incumbents both state and private want to keep the status quo alive: the Mastercards of the world want to keep fees high and central banks want to keep control of interest rates by influencing the supply of currency in the market. I think both can still be done without cash and it leaves the possibility that with time and good legislation and technological improvement and some enterprising people there might become solutions that take the friction of paying for and make the settling accounts and such cheaper for all parties involved.

Why is Swish worrying you?

It is basically a payment overlay on top of whatever technology runs in the mobile devices. If tomorrow the dominant mobile OS is Foobar, there will be Swish for it and things just keep on working. It is not tied to a US or Chinese megacorporation, so there is no risk of geopolitically-influenced political decisions ruining the show, like those threatening SWIFT, for example. Swish works just fine inside Sweden, for Swedes.

All countries should have the equivalent of Swish and then make them interoperate if sending money to another country.

I can think of one thing why Swish and "e-krona" is not a good idea: if the lights go out temporarily, it will be difficult to pay for something (although figuring this out is a technical problem -- the payments could be queued in the terminals or something).

If the lights go out forever and we enter the quiet apocalypse, then there is very little use for cash either, aside from use as tinder or drying shoes, and plastic notes will not work for those either.

> If tomorrow the dominant mobile OS is Foobar, there will be Swish for it and things just keep on working.

How could there ever be a new mobile OS in this scenario? If stores rely on Swish, consumers have to use a mobile OS that supports Swish, so nobody can enter the mobile OS market (except if they pay Swish to provide a port for their OS on day 1).

Yes, of course, they'd have to provide a port on day 1, or people would not use that mobile OS. It's the same thing if the mobile OS lacked, say, Mobile BankID (a 2FA app used for a lot of things in Sweden). Those are simply hygiene features, like a web browser.

It's common for a new product rollout (whatever it is) to have discussions with different companies beforehand, this is how e.g. games magically appear on the market around the same time when a new game console is launched. The game studios get their hands on development hardware and documentation before anyone else.

So I don't see Swish being any kind of blocker for anyone wanting to roll out a new mobile OS in Sweden. Whoever wants to come in first contacts Swish, they do the legal paperwork and then contract someone to build the app.

And it's not like Swish is the only option to pay in stores. It's not that common, in fact. Paying with a debit card is the most common thing.

I was assuming the OP had some sort of contactless payment ability on their mobile phone. But since they had difficulty in using it especially because the platform seemingly forces a new user to have a Swedish bank that’s a huge barrier to entry.

That sounds painful.

I'm a Norwegian in Australia.

We've got Paypass / Paywave just about everywhere here. With Samsung Pay supporting both, I don't bring my wallet out most days. I'm sure a lot of the readers support Apple Pay as well.

Of course we can still use cash if we want to, but tapping is just easy these days.

IOUs from friends: the most resilient form of peer to peer money. There shouldn't be a rush to pay them back either unless they are hard up (or you preferred not to keep track of IOUs)

What are your thoughts on [Vipps](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vipps)?

I'm curious, would your colleagues consider using bitcoin or ethereum as a method of exchange? Could you send them that to pay them back and they could pay on your behalf? If not, why?

edit: auto complete filled in butcoin, corrected. Not sure how that got in my dictionary!

My "music festival colleagues"? :P

Joking aside, sure, crypto would be a great solution if they were already using it. They weren't however, and trying to introduce someone half-drunk and in a party vibe to crypto is not a good idea.

If I had asked them to use crypto afterwards I would just have imposed a lot of extra work on them, which wouldn't be nice considering they did me a service by lending to me and blindly trusting me to send it back.

Got it, none of your friends or people you know there are using it.

Getting set up on an exchange is challenging these days, at least in the US. I didn't know if there were better options that people there in Scandinavia were using, sounds like no.

It's sad, because once you have crypto in an exchange it is super simple to send to an address, and the current exchange rate is easy to see. Seems like it solves your problems in that no one would need to use one of the different and incompatible banking systems. I'm sort of surprised the cost of signing up for a crypto exchange makes the banking system still a consideration.

It's an interesting place you are in, highly mobile within Europe, with the financial system getting more complicated when you travel within it.

To the downvoters: care to say why? I read the entire article, read the comment I'm referring to, and have personal experience that the solution I'm proposing works as I'm describing. I'm left with only that everyone must think my question reeks of crypto currency evangelism, and that's a BAD thing here on HN. Is it something else? My grammar or phrasing?

You're probably right, the downvotes are probably because people are sick of people saying "Crypto is the solution!". IMO he might as well have said "Can you lend me money, I'll pay you back with these chicken eggs, bartering is a valid form to pay for goods and services!", except crypto has hype around it that he'd probably find a taker or two...

Im just guessing but replacing something that is used by almost everyone here in sweden with something almost noone uses is a bit counter productive. Just start using cash again would be the easiest solution. Swift payments is mostly used to accept payment easy and costfree between private people at fleamarkets and similar since noone carries cash any more.

Network effects and the "good enough" effect. At some point no one used swish. Then it became useful for some and then it became useful for many. Then it became the "must have" or "should have" for everyone else.

Crypto's could do this. They just aren't set up as easy right now. I'm pointing at bitcoin etc. They are also slow. I can tap my MasterCard contactless card/phone and pay for coffee and the merchant is happy. I've had bitcoin take >30 minutes to transfer. Unacceptably slow.

Is that more convenient than a bank transfer? Now the other party needs to sign up to a bitcoin exchange.

I'd say absolutely. I don't know of a bank where I can set up an account completely online through an app, which you can do with cex.io or coinbase. It's gotten harder but generally you create an account and then upload your ID and then can buy very soon afterwards. That makes it tenable in my opinion to ask even the most Luddite of friends to do it before the event and then pay people back that way.

I don't know of a bank where I can set up an account completely online through an app

In my EU country, there are already six banks that let you do this, and I doubt we're pioneers.

But how do they get their money out of the exchange?

In the example provided I’m sending my pal BTC for some shared purchase because there’s no cash.

My friend didn’t have a BTC address / wallet or whatever, now they do, and I’ve just transferred them 0.0028 BTC to cover my share of lunch.

Now what?

Anglophones, please, please, excuse me for replying in my native tounge. The cashless society engages my aversion such that it is hard to say in my second language.

Så jävla enig alltså!

Fy fan för detta inskränkta, ofria land! Jag avundas norrmän, daner, och finnar för att de slipper Rosenbad.

Du, och alla andra skandinaver vet att genomsnittssvensken... har sina svårigheter.

Ser fram mot min årliga skridskosemester i Norge.

... huh? Or I guess this is sarcasm? This response hardly seems warranted, given it’s just a festival exclusively accepting swish. I never use swish except for sending money to friends, so I don’t think it’s widespread for businesses. Contact less credit card is easier than everything, including cash.

The Danish version, MobilePay, is fairly widely accepted by small and some medium businesses.

Very small businesses might only accept MobilePay or cash (e.g. come and see an obscure band perform in Copenhagen, the ticket, cloakroom and bar might have these choices.)

Larger places offer it as an alternative. The canteens at Copenhagen University, for example.

How did you type those knots over a? I'm on windows.

Swedish has three extra letters in its alphabet, åäö, so Swedish keyboard layout has 'å' where american keyboards has '['. You can type them by switching to Swedish layout and pressing [.

Ok... so you went to a festival without money? How would you have solved this without Swish? As you said there was no ATMs. Card readers are expensive and not really viable for most booths. They are also kind of a monopoly.

You don't have to use SWIFT... you can do Paypal, Western union etc.. too.

For Swedes.. Swish is god send. I lost my credit card once at a train and had no cash. I was at a hospital out of town with my son. I was able to Swish to a doctor and then get cash from him.

They had money, most places did not accept money.

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