Friday TechMunch: Are You A Cashless Consumer?

Have you heard of the Stratos card? No?

Well, it’s the latest breakthrough concept in the world of digital payment: a single credit-card-sized replacement for all existing cards in your wallet.

If you’re familiar with Bitcoin, the Stratos will be easy to understand as it has the same underlying concept.

Applying this to Stratos means you load your credit and debit cards into a smartphone app with the provided dongle and they then reside electronically on the Stratos card itself. From there, you can use them via the device anywhere you’d use the original.

We have come a long way since the time when using cash was the only available payment method. Over the past year we’ve seen the payments landscape change significantly with the introduction of services like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.

This poses several questions: will we be able to convert a nation of cash-paying consumers to smarter electronic modes of payments; and what would the future be like if we could pay our shopping bills on-site or remotely, without cash or credit card, and without sharing our bank details?

Like all forms of payment,these new payment methods have both strengths and weaknesses:

Security benefits:  The technology being used to create a cashless age has the potential to offer security benefits to its users. It is very easy to shut down a digital wallet on your phone if needs be and it is very difficult for phone hackers to copy an individual’s personnel biometrics ID.

Convenience: A cashless system could also prove to be more convenient for users as digital payments can be made with a tap of a smartphone (or your Stratos card). Digital payments also make it easier to loan or borrow money.

 Vs.Security Risks:  There are still a lot of security risks associated with electronic modes of payment, digital wallets, mobile phones, wearable technology and biometrics may still be lost or stolen, just as purses are today.

Hackers: There will always be thieves who are working on hacks in anticipation of a cashless, cardless future. Google itself had to do a temporary shutdown of a feature on its wallet solution that allows users to load prepaid card information onto smartphones for spending. The reason for the shutdown was due to a security vulnerability that was exposed by a Zvelo Labs researcher at a technology convention.

So should we be using these cashless concepts?

Ultimately, there will always be a few payment types that we view as go-to methods for purchasing things. I don’t think Bitcoin, The Stratos card, Apple Pay or Google Wallet will ever completely wipe out the use of cash. After all, not everyone has access to smart technology and it’s unlikely that homeless people or charities dependent on the “spare change” of strangers will tap into digital donations.

Recent research carried out by VocaLink among UK consumers however, has found that we are more open to digital payment methods that would mean we no longer need to carry multiple cards. Consumers want the same immediacy of a payment showing up on real-time account balances that comes with debit cards while also providing help with monitoring and budgeting. They also want to use one system for all purchases that eliminates the need to share bank details with merchants.

As for whether we will be completely converted to a nation of cashless consumers, this is still many years away, but we are likely to see several changes to how we manage and spend money over the next few years.

Remember when we had to write a cheque, go to the bank and queue up to withdraw cash? Many of us were convinced we’d never move to online banking because of security risks but today we’re snapping pictures of cheques via apps in order to deposit them in the bank…it’s entirely possible we’ll be equally comfortable with the Stratos card and other “cashless” technologies, come 2020.