Fewer than 10% of people in Norway use cash -- and a senior official thinks it could disappear completely in a decade

  • The deputy governor of the Norwegian central bank believes that the country is effectively cashless.
  • Use of physical money is incredibly rare in the Scandinavian nation, with fewer than 10% of transactions including cash.
  • Cashlessness is on the rise globally, with almost 40% of Brits saying they can see themselves ditching the use of cash altogether in the future.

LONDON – Norway has effectively become the world’s first cashless society, according to one of the country’s most senior economic policymakers.

Speaking during the City Week conference at London’s Guildhall, Jon Nicolaisen, the deputy governor of Norway’s central bank, argued that the level of transactions using cash in the Scandinavian country is now so low that it can be considered cashless.

“By approximation, I would argue that the present is cashless,” he said, during a discussion of the future of paper currency, chaired by the Bank of England’s chief cashier.

Nicolaisen had the figures to back up his argument.

“According to our latest numbers, we have less than 3% of broad money in cash,” he said, adding that “less than 10% of the number of transactions, including buying coffees, are in cash.”

Money is now almost entirely transferred electronically, he continued, saying that 90% of transfers in the country are now done via some electronic means.

“In many ways, we are already becoming a cashless society,” he continued.

Rising cashlessness, Nicolaisen said, is not anything to do with the central bank’s preferences, but simply represents the wishes of those who use money on a daily basis – the country’s consumers.

“We have no wish to eliminate cash. It is the public itself that chooses other means of payment,” he said.

It is not just in Norway where cashlessness is on the rise, with the whole of Scandinavia effectively moving away from physical money. As early as 2015 people were suggesting that Sweden is virtually cashless, and there is even anecdotal evidence that some beggars and buskers have card terminals, such is the lack of physical money in circulation.

As Business Insider wrote in 2015: “Sweden is the place where, if you use too much cash, banks call the police because they think you might be a terrorist or a criminal.”

Scandinavian nations, and neighbouring Finland, are famously forward thinking when it comes to the future of money, with Finland recently launching an experiment with Universal Basic Income – a concept which effectively give citizens free money.

Cashlessness is also on the rise in the UK, with a recent survey conducted for Business Insider showing that almost 40% of Brits can see themselves ditching the use of cash altogether in the future.

Globally, Nicolaisen said, cash could completely disappear within the next decade.

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