How To Go Cashless and Why You Might Want To
Have you ever wondered if you could live life completely without cash? While it is possible to live without cash, you’d likely face some major inconveniences along the way in today’s world.
If you want to make the move to a cashless life, we explore a few tips to help get you there. So you’re completely prepared, we share the pros and cons of deciding to live without cash, as well.
What is a cashless society?
A cashless society is just what it sounds like. In a cashless society, money would not exist in physical form. If the U.S. were to be a cashless society, there would be no dollar bills. Coins would no longer exist. Instead, you’d have to make payments in other ways.
Whenever you want to buy something, you get the item but you don’t have to give any physical money to make the purchase. Instead, it would all be electronic. You could use payment cards to make your payments. Common options include debit cards, credit cards, prepaid cards, and gift cards.
Of course, cards aren’t your only option. Many vendors accept payments through apps or contactless options. You can also link your bank account to payment services like PayPal.
Alternative currencies such as bitcoin could also be used as payment in certain circumstances. Some countries even use QR codes, those black and white pixelated squares, as a way to make payments.
Unfortunately, there are no truly cashless societies in existence today. While we can all decide whether or not to use cash, there may be times where paying in cash is your only option. When that happens, you’ll either have to go find cash or skip making the purchase.
Why you may want to go cashless
Going cashless can make sense for many people. You don’t have to live in a cashless society to make it happen. Instead of keeping cash and coins, you’d need to make sure you always have other ways to pay for your purchases.
You’d need at least one debit or credit card. You could also use apps, online banking, and other cashless payment methods depending on the particular vendor and your preferences. The more options you have to make payments, the more successful you’ll be in living a cashless life.
It makes keeping track of your finances much easier
Living a cashless life makes keeping track of your finances much easier. Almost every transaction in a cashless environment would be recorded on a statement somewhere. Credit card statements, bank statements and transaction history from payment apps track every single purchase.
Most likely, you’ll have access to the date of the transaction, where the transaction was made and the amount of the transaction.
If you used cash, you’d have to manually keep track of every transaction. You’d have to input it into a spreadsheet or database if you wanted to aggregate your cash spending data with other spending. If you don’t keep track of cash spending, you won’t be able to take a look at your total spending picture.
Use tracking tools
If you use cashless payment methods, you can use the transaction data, along with other services, to quickly put together a list of all of your spending in one place. This can be super helpful if you use multiple credit cards or payment methods to make your purchases.
There are some tools, such as Personal Capital, that connect to all of your accounts and automatically aggregate the data for you. This saves you a ton of time and gives you valuable insight into your finances.
You could even use the features of your credit card, bank account, and payment apps to alert you when you’re getting close to your budget before you exceed it. While not all payment methods would offer this service, many do.
Your money is safer
Going cashless can also give you a bit of peace of mind. If cash is stolen, it’s gone forever. You have no way to get it back. If you keep $1,000 of emergency money in your home and your house burns down, it’s gone. While insurance may cover stolen or damaged cash in small amounts, the limits are usually fairly low.
Credit cards, debit cards, and other payments usually have protections put in place to prevent you from losing money to fraud. If your card gets stolen, you can cancel it immediately and get issued a new card.
If you do this before fraudulent transactions are made, you won’t lose a dime. Even if fraudulent transactions have been made, your card will usually reimburse you for any unauthorized purchases.
Why going cashless might not be the best idea
Going completely cashless probably isn’t the best idea. While the idea of never carrying cash is alluring, it does create some major problems in certain situations.
No power means no card payments
If the power goes out, you’re stuck without any way to make transactions. Digital payment methods require power and communications systems to authorize transactions. If the internet goes down, your credit or debit card transactions may not be able to be approved.
Cash isn’t as easily tracked
Cash has other benefits, too. It isn’t tracked as easily as card transactions are. There isn’t any record of who made a purchase and on what account when paying with cash. If you’re looking to be discrete, cash is the best way to make payments.
Normally, people would associate this type of activity with criminal activities or tax evasion. However, the untraceable nature of cash can be useful in your everyday life, too. If your spouse closely monitors all purchase records for your family’s finances, it’d be pretty hard to buy a surprise gift without tipping them off. Paying in cash can help shield the surprise from prying eyes.
Paying in cash could help you spend less money
Studies have been done that show the act of physically handing over cash has more impact than swiping or inserting a card to make a payment. Unless you make the mental shift that spending using cashless methods is just as impactful, you may end up spending more with cashless methods than with actual cash.
Cash doesn’t come with fees
Another financial benefit of using cash is cash transactions don’t typically come with fees. Sometimes, a company will charge a fee to accept debit or credit cards because the company itself has to pay fees to accept card transactions.
Others may offer cash discounts to save the company money. This is becoming more common with purchases of gas at gas stations. Some stations go as far as listing both cash and credit prices on their signs by the highway.
Some vendors don’t accept card payments
Some vendors don’t accept card payments at all and only accept cash to keep their costs down. If you run across a vendor with this rule, you wouldn’t be able to make a purchase using cashless options. Some cash-only vendors may accept checks, but very few people carry personal checks anymore.
Fraud is less likely with cash
Finally, those that only use cash and don’t have credit cards or debit cards don’t have to worry about their credit card or debit card accounts getting compromised. While you do have to prevent your cash from being stolen, cash can’t be hacked and be used to make unauthorized purchases.
You rely on other companies to protect your accounts and data from unauthorized access with debit and credit cards. While you can do your part to protect your physical debit cards, credit cards and login credentials, the bank or credit card company’s systems are out of your control.
Thieves can’t steal your personal data, such as your name, address, or Social Security number when you use cash. However, with cashless payment methods, thieves can hack into the databases that manage your cashless payment options that hold this sensitive information.
How you can move toward living a cashless life
If you’re ready to move toward living a cashless life, here’s how to get started.
Have multiple options
First, make sure you have multiple credit or debit cards to make purchases. It helps to have cards from different credit card companies in case your favorite store doesn’t accept your American Express or Visa card. Believe it or not, some stores won’t accept certain credit card brands due to higher processing costs.
Use a bank with a good mobile app
Next, make sure you use a bank that offers robust online and app-based services. This can allow you to quickly check on your balances and, in some cases, make purchases directly from the app. The better the technology, the more options you typically have to manage your money.
Don’t forget to download payment apps like Venmo and PayPal. These apps can help you pay friends, families and sometimes even businesses that may not accept credit cards.
Be prepared to be turned down for certain purchases or to pay more to make them
Some stores or vendors will only accept cash. Others won’t accept credit cards for purchases less than a certain dollar amount. You may even have to pay a fee to use a debit or credit card rather than pay cash.
Consider carrying some cash
Finally, you might need to keep some cash on hand or have a way to access it when you need it even though you may want to live a completely cashless life.
I doubt your child’s teacher will accept a credit card to pay for the $10 bill so your kid can go on a field trip. Making sure you have access to an ATM or debit card should give you plenty of options to get the cash you need in a crunch.
Sometimes cash will be the only option until our country transitions to a truly cashless society – if that ever happens at all.
While living a truly cashless life could be ideal for some people, chances are there will always be some transactions that require having access to cash. Be prepared for these situations but use other cashless options whenever possible if you want to take advantage of the benefits of living a cashless life.