How cashless is Switzerland

The Swiss are moving more and more away from cash

The swan song for cash has long been in vogue - but it has proven to be astonishingly tenacious. Now it seems, however, that coins and Nötli could also become prominent corona victims.

In January 2020 Thorsten Hens, professor of financial economics at the University of Zurich, jokingly declared on Radio SRF that Switzerland was “the last country to abolish cash”. He predicted the end of this for the year 2050. Due to the rapid development in the wake of the Corona crisis, he has now withdrawn this assessment. At the end of the cash he also said with a laugh: “My new forecast is no longer 2050, but 2030 - so only ten years to go”.

In fact, the corona pandemic gave cashless payments a massive boost, as SRF reports. Major distributors such as Aldi and Coop have since registered an increase of around ten percent in shopping with cards or smartphones.

Fear of cash

The machine operator Selecta has noticed a similar development. As the company said to “Bluewin”, up to 60 percent of sales at the machines are now paid contactlessly. Before the pandemic, the number was 44 percent. The fear of infection through coins and Nötli seems to have played a large part in this development.

However, there is no question that cashless payment is becoming even more important - the major distributors are already making further efforts here, according to SRF.

New payment systems

Coop recently introduced the payment option with its own Supercard credit card and Aldi launched the Twint contactless payment system during the pandemic. Migros will also examine a new system this year. In the future, it should be possible to scan products with your own smartphone and pay for them directly. This means that even going to the self-service checkout would be obsolete.

Even if banknotes circulated less in stores during the corona pandemic, the "total circulation" still increased, as the deputy director of the Swiss National Bank, Peter Eltschinger, told SRF. This is a typical crisis phenomenon: "People want to be on the safe side and stock up on emergency supplies."

Since the corona crisis is far from over, and some scientists assume that one may have to learn to live with the virus, this could mean that the cash could survive for a long time under the pillow at home.

More realistic calculation basis

In any case, the dead live longer, as the vernacular knows. The SNB was only able to report a "comeback" of cash last year, although this was due to a new calculation basis. Until the end of 2017, only cash withdrawals were recorded in the SNB's data set that were made with domestic Maestro cards at domestic ATMs operated by external banks.

However, withdrawals made by people using their debit card at their own bank's ATMs were not recorded. These have only been included in the statistics since the beginning of 2018. This should make the picture much more realistic. After all, most people are likely to withdraw money at ATMs from banks where they are also customers - simply to avoid fees.

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