Some parts of the world are moving towards the elimination of cash and replacing it with exclusive use of digital currency. I personally don’t think that this is something that should happen here because there are reasons to keep using cash alongside the technology which allows us to sometimes do without it.
Getting rid of the penny was a hot topic when I was younger and the necessity of it is still being debated. Two dollar bills are still in circulation and are legal tender, but rarely used. Half dollar and dollar coins are largely bought by collectors and often aren’t recognized in ATM’s or vending machines. The U.S. has a long history of adapting to changing societal tastes when it comes to currency usage.
Eliminating physical currency would get rid of first world problems like not being able to buy a candy bar with a two-dollar bill. However, with it comes the elimination of all the benefits of cash. The thing is cash and digital currency can co-exist. They already do and there’s no need to eliminate the former to use the latter.
There are some valid arguments against a cash economy which include the sunk costs of minting money which then isn’t circulated and money that is stolen. With digital currency, there’s no visible waste and less risk of theft. On the other hand, certain coins become more valuable for their rarity after they stop being produced and this incentivizes collectors to purchase them. Similarly, even if the overall use of cash declined, there would still be people who would want to pay with cash because of personal preference, despite the supposed negatives.
Cash is harder to trace which makes it more vulnerable to theft, but the real threat to the average American is identity theft. If an individual is robbed while out and about, it is only what they have on their person that can be stolen. If a person is the victim of identity theft they could lose their life savings. I’d be more suspicious of someone asking for donations on their phone than someone who had a container to collect change. Cash gives people a form of security that digital currency just can’t offer.
The portability of cash is also beneficial. Though not quite as compact as a card or a phone app, cash isn’t very heavy and doesn’t take much space most of the time. I find it easier to use for smaller purchases. If I’m buying something under $10, I’d rather not use a card. Sure, cards eliminate some of the awkward fumbling with change that can happen with cash, but otherwise I prefer to use physical money. It sets a limit on what I can buy which keeps me aware of whether or not I should make the purchase. With a card, the withdrawals are invisible until I’m brave enough to check my bank account.
With cash, you know how much you have. Unless the cash is borrowed, you can’t put yourself into debt. Cash exchanges are immediate, while debit card transactions can take a while to process and overcharge your account long after you make a purchase. Sure, cash can be misplaced, but it’s better to misplace a fraction of your funds than to depend on a single means of accessing them that is just as fallible.
Privacy is another thing that digital currency lacks. For transactions that happen remotely like ones online or over the phone, digital currency is necessary and convenient. On the other hand, with the elimination of cash all purchases would be linked to an individual and that information wouldn’t be private but visible to their bank.
Additionally, it’d be under the control of the bank. It’s scary to think what it would be like to have no means of making purchases if your account was unfairly suspended or overdrawn due to purchases by a thief.
If anything, cash allows for a back up in worst case scenarios that digital currency leaves us vulnerable to. Just like I wouldn’t want to revert to a cash-only economy, I don’t want to live in one that is cash-free. I value the flexibility of the option and the increased benefits due to the availability of both. The use of cash should not be eliminated because, unlike credit cards, it is safe, reliable and versatile.