The pros and cons of cash

Pundits enjoy the topic of a cashless society and the prediction of the end of cash. It’s on old debate and it’s rather dated. A day does not go by that I don’t read an article or blog post about how we need to go cashless, or ultimately will go cashless. Personally, I seldom use cash and typically reach for my American Express Card, simply because it’s convenient and I can leverage the float and earn “cash back”.

So I have been thinking more about the topic, from a personal perspective, and came up with my own pros and cons of a cashless society. It’s a little jaded, because I am off the opinion that in my lifetime we will never be without some form of physical currency. While I use plastic to pay most bills and purchases (never debit), I still carry some cash when I travel or go out on the town. So here it goes:

Why I Like Cash

  • I’ll often tip a server in cash. Why? Ask any server why. They want cash and it provides them with instant gratification. There may be another reason, but I’m afraid the IRS may read this.
  • I like to help the homeless, the beggars and those just down on their luck. Yes, maybe I’m a sucker for the needy, but I have been known to offer some coins or bills to panhandlers. If any on them take plastic or bitcoin, I’m not falling for it.
  • The smell of money is intoxicating, particularly new bills. It’s odd enough being seen smelling money, but smelling a credit card or smartphone, well, that’s just over the top.
  • A report for the American Psychological Association states that when paying with cash, “there is a tight coupling of the consumption and the payment, thereby accentuating the pain of paying”. I pay for incidentals with cash, so that at the end of the month, when the statement comes, I’m not reminded that I spent $18 on chewing gum.
  • Cash under my mattress makes me feel in control. I keep $500 in cash in a safe because I live in an area prone to storms. Ever been cashless and not have power for 5 days? When the power goes off, cash is king.
  • Cash is convenient and is the most widely medium of exchange. It’s easy to carry, it’s accepted, and it’s easy to divide for transactions of different sizes.
  • We must save the piggy bank. Kids enjoy the sound coins make when dropping change into a piggy bank.
  • Using cash does not involve transaction fees. We’re going to pay for virtual currency.

Why I Don’t Like Cash

  • It’s really dirty. A 2002 report in the Southern Medical Journal showed found pathogens — including staphylococcus — on 94% of bills tested. What’s in your wallet? Poop. And other stuff.
  • Cash is not convenient to obtain. There is no way I am waiting for a teller to hand me cash. I’ll hit an ATM when it’s convenient. It seldom is.
  • Bills wear out. Like you and me, it’s lifespan is limited.
  • Have you tried to cancel your cash when it’s stolen? Good luck. Cash is insecure when compared to other forms of payment.
  • It’s harder to track spending. I love year-end statements! I love importing transaction data.

I know the debate will rage on and most pundits will disagree with me. But all would agree there are pros and cons to cash. But what I envision is a “less cash” society, not a cashless society. I am not willing to predict that cash will be around forever, but reports of the impending demise of bills and coins are exaggerated.

Bryan Clagett

Bryan Clagett

Bryan is on the executive team and singularly focused on driving revenue growth through a variety of new initiatives that help financial services and fintech become ever more relevant to ... Web: Details