How much cash and/or coins do you have in your pocket/purse/wallet right now? My answer to that question, almost 100% of the time, is $0.00.
I seem to find myself living in two completely separate worlds most of the time. In the first world, every store, website, and vendor I patronize accepts my credit or debit cards. (Don’t get me started on the reason some places don’t take American Express.) Despite the fact that the credit card companies have made transactions impossibly expensive (especially for small businesses), these stores still accept them because otherwise I might not shop at their store.
The second world is a seedy underworld where chaos reigns. It’s the world of cash-only purchases. In 2012, it’s my experience that if a business only accepts cash, they should be audited every year for potential tax evasion. Why, in this technological age, don’t you accept electronic payment?
- I can tip the pizza delivery guy on my credit card receipt.
- I can tip my waiter at the restaurant on my credit card receipt.
- I can tip my barber on my credit card receipt.
- I can tip the barista at the coffee shop on my credit card receipt.
In some cases, when tipping someone that I didn’t have another transaction with, I don’t currently have a better option. This is an EXTREMELY limited list of people.
- The luggage guy at the airport when I’m in a hurry.
- The hotel bellman that helped me take my luggage to my room.
- The homeless man that convinced me to help him.
- The kid that cleans my clubs up after a round of golf.
For every other cash-based situation, why aren’t we moving these transactions to the credit card I already used? For example: Why can’t I tip the hotel maid ON MY BILL when I check out of my hotel room? I’ve flatly been told that it’s not possible.
I don’t want to carry cash. Ever.
It’s dirty. It’s messy. It makes my wallet gigantic. I don’t even have a place to keep coins. It is easily stolen or misplaced. It requires change. Have you ever tried to buy a bottle of Pepsi from a vending machine, only to discover you only have a $5 bill? It’s maddening. Credit cards, or the real point of this article, electronic payments, seem like a bright future to me. Sure, there’s the possibility someone is going to be shaving fractions of cents from my transactions, and there’s always the possibility that the bank will have a software error that “erases” my bank balance.
Except that we already live in that world, whether you realize it or not. The entire financial industry is not moving piles of cash or gold around to each other when money changes hands…only a series of bits are moved electronically. So, for those of you that are leery of doing your banking electronically…you already are.
But in order for our civilization to be able to move to an entirely electronic system, we need to be able to accommodate every possible transaction, especially the ones I’ve listed below. This is where Near Field Communication (NFC) could be the solution to all of our problems.
Imagine a world where every single person has the ability to receive information, music, messages, and payments from any other person in the world. You’re probably thinking that we already live in that world, but it’s clunky. Services like PayPal and Square are working very hard to make this idea possible. But their current solutions still require you to have someone swipe a card, or give you their email address.
NFC + one of the many wallet solutions that are coming from the likes of Google, Apple, or Microsoft might just be enough to bridge this gap to becoming seamless. You’ll be able to store all of your payment methods inside your smartphone, and when you want to give someone money, be that a person or a vendor, it’s as simple as a wave of your device to do so. You enter a PIN, type in the amount you want to pay, and you’re done. No receipts, no fumbling with your wallet, and NO CHANGE to load into your pocket.
Maybe we’ll start seeing bellmen wearing devices like these:
Wave your phone near their hand, and the payment is made. I think I’m going to love NFC.
P.S. Here’s an entertaining little video on why we should stop making money, as well. (Well, OK, at least stop making pennies and nickels.)