Is it inevitable or self-serving? Is it a threat to our privacy?

Seven years ago, in 2015, a group of experts on money (and its future) explained Bankinter “the revolution that is (already) taking place on the monetary scene.” Under the title “The Future of Money”They talked about cryptocurrencies and the disappearance of physical money.

In a fun exercise between utopia and the uchronic, these monetary sages dared that in 2017 “the largest financial institutions acquire and accept bitcoins… and there is an alliance of banks based on Bitcoin“; in 2019, “a social crypto-currency carried by new generations completely rejects traditional currencies”; and in 2022, “everyone is assigned an IP address at birth which now logs everything they do on the internet”.

The series ‘La casa de papel’ would have been a kind of cash swan song, his last exaltation

None of this happened, in fact, the cryptocurrencies They’re going through their first crisis today and they’re up in the air. Anyway, those predictions took for granted the death of money, cashthat of coins and banknotes. money theftthe series, would have been a kind of swan song, his last exaltation.

money theft
money theft
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The Spanish taste for cash payment

Despite the growing trend towards virtual money (via card or mobile), Spain is one of the countries in the European Union who is most reluctant to give money for small transactions or day-to-day payments. Our data is far from that of other European countries where cash has virtually no weight in the economy.

The data for Spain is far from that of other European countries where cash has almost no weight

According to data from European Central Bankin the Study on payment and consumer attitudes in the euro area December 2020, the Cash payments in Spain accounted for 82% of all registeredand 66% of transaction volume in Spain.

Whereas Holland only 34% operations were carried out in cash, i.e. 22% of the total value. In the same vein, countries like Finland, where cash payments accounted for 35% of the totals recorded in the country.

An image of an ATM machine.
An image of an ATM machine.

Our “issuing” bank also wanted to know. The latest national survey on Bank of Spain on the use of cash (of 2020), recalls that the 35.9% of citizens have cash as a means of payment more usual. The percentage increases in municipalities with less than 100,000 inhabitants, up to 37.5%. Others 54.1% already opt for the card (debit) as preferred method of payment.

The substitution process slows in cities and small towns, and among the elderly

It is true that we use less and less physical money (the pandemic of covid also helped him). And it’s as true as this process is accelerating in large cities and among younger generations; and it slows down in cities and small towns, and in the elderly.

This explains why the number of ATMs has been declining for years after hitting its historical maximum in 2008, with 61,714 points. According to the latest data from the Payment Systems Department of the Bank of Spain, now There are 49,481 ATMs in Spain.

We have gone from nearly 62,000 ATMs in 2008 to less than 50,000 in 2020

In the market some 86.2 million debit and credit cards, twice as many as 22 years ago, when they were 45.8 million. Be that as it may, cash withdrawals from ATMs increased from 908,590 operations in 2019 to 624,664 in 2020. But, it is clear, the pandemic and the confinement due to the coronavirus have played a role here. .

The end of paper, an innocent process?

Elisabet Ruiz, professor of economics and business studies at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), is clear: “We are going to be a cashless society”. According to her, “it’s something that will happen for sure…there are already countries within the European Union with programs to eliminate cash”.

However, in Spain the process will be slower. The reason is the weight of the money in b. “People without contracts, workers in care tasks or people who are hired only to work in the hotel industry in the summer, in our country we have a lot of underground economy whose payments are channeled in cash”assures the professor in statements to information.

We are going to be a cashless society…it is something that will happen for sure”

But no analysis is innocent. Are there fewer ATMs because less money is withdrawn, or are less money withdrawn because there are fewer ATMs? In other words, the substitution of “real” payments for virtual payments is a technology-driven but also driven process. Promoted by digital payment companies, by banks and even by states.

The issue of privacy is fundamental. On the one hand, it is pointed out that the problem with physical money is that it allows payments to be made in B and feeds the underground economy. “Paying or receiving cash allows transactions to be carried out anonymously. This sometimes leads to money laundering or tax evasion, which promotes the underground economy. These illicit activities harm society in as a whole, assuming significant tax evasion,” it read. in an article from the website of Santander bank speaking of money…

A threat to individual freedom

On the other hand, privacy considered as a right and not as a territory of suspicion and criminality. It is answered that only technological payments (whether by card, with mobile or in any other way) mean ending the privacy of the citizen… you want to spend your money without worrying that everything can be targeted and “controlled”. Thus, the disappearance of physical money would be a threat to individual freedom, as written years ago Ibán Díez, lawyer from the law firm Gómez Acebo y Pombo.

The problem is that public authorities have not shown the ability and/or the will to protect citizens against the abuses committed by companies that operate on the Internet with their private data”

“The fundamental problem is that neither in the United States nor in the European Union, the public authorities have demonstrated the capacity and/or the will to protect citizens in a truly effective way against the abuses committed daily by companies that operate on the Internet with your data private”, explains Manuel Bautista Perezwho served as Director General of Civil Aviation, Director General of the National Institute of Meteorology and Vice President of the World Meteorological Organization.

If there is no physical money information about what each of us does with your money would be recorded and could be used by companies at their convenience. In this sense, Pérez recalls the case where in 2019, The Wall Street Journal revealed that Google, after signing an agreement with one of the main American medical companies, had accessed the complete medical history of 50 million Americans, without their knowledge. It’s just an example.

The political class will be able to fully know what we are doing with our money”

Distrust of businesses and governments. When in 2020, the PSOE proposed eliminating cash, economist Juan Ramón Rallo said that with the excuse of social distancing, eliminating cash would fulfill political goals, although they would go “to the detriment of the civil and economic freedoms of citizens.”

In his YouTube channelthe “very liberal” Rallo defended that without banknotes or coins citizens would see their privacy disappear in economic matters. Everything would be recorded and accessible to those who could have access to this history, whether companies or governments: “The political class will be able to fully know what we are doing with our money.

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