Denmark considers law to allow businesses to refuse cash

The Danish government is considering a law that will make it legal for a business to refuse payment in cash. They fear that cash payments represent “administrative and financial burdens” on firms and they should be allowed to insist on a card or electronic payment.

Denmark is already further down the road to a cashless society than we are in the UK. Apparently Denmark’s government has already stopped producing coins and notes and lots of bank branches don’t even hold cash. Of 5.6 million Danes, 2 million use Danske Bank’s mobile payment service already. Just about everyone has a debit card, it seems.

Cash does provide headaches for governments. Obviously there is an expense producing and maintaining physical cash money and keeping it in circulation. Coins are relatively durable but notes deteriorate much more quickly over time. And, needless to say, coins and notes can be counterfeited.

It’s easier to steal and hard to trace when it is stolen. And also, a black economy relies almost entirely on cash and governments are always keen to stamp out that sort of thing. A cashless country would be able to tackle tax avoidance much more effectively too.

And cash also represents a hassle and expense to anyone running a business. Cashing up, reconciling the tills and banking all take up time for a retail operation. Maybe not onerous, but time is money. Of course, card payments attract an expense on the flip side.

A cashless society is quite difficult to imagine. But I think the biggest reason to resist it is romance. There is something very satisfactory about coins and notes. Cash is a certain and speedy transaction. Maybe I’m a bit old-fashioned, but I do get frustrated at the bar as card payments slow down the service.