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The Death Of Cash

London Mirror | December 29, 2006
Matt Roper

MONEY talks - and in the very near future it will be talking through your mobile phone.

Fumbling for coins in your pocket will be a thing of the past as the latest technology lets you load up your phone with credit and pay by simply pointing it at the till.

It's further proof that new technology is killing off hard cash.

In the coming year, even the smallest purchases will be paid for electronically after credit card giants Visa and Barclaycard struck a deal to create the next generation of "wave and pay" cards for purchases of less than £10.

Users will simply wave the card across a scanner to pay for small items for which they would normally use coins, such as their Daily Mirror or a pint of beer.

But the Baja Beach Club in Barcelona has taken the technology one step further by having tiny data chips implanted surgically under customers' skin.

The VeriChip then allows clubbers to pay for drinks by waving their arm across the counter.

Already more purchases are made on plastic than in cash, and a study by retail analyst Datamonitor suggests that cards could replace cash altogether within 10 years.

Last year Mastercard launched Cashplus, the first UK version of the pre-paid plastic cards popular in the US. No bank account is needed as they can be topped up at the Post Office.

Oyster cards, which many Londoners use to pay for public transport, now account for 70 per cent of Tube and bus journeys.

Tesco is apparently considering its first totally cashless store while German hypermarket Real is trialling stores where customers can only pay with a credit or debit card.

But your mobile phone is likely to be the biggest threat to cash. Last year a new EU ruling eased the restrictions on using them to pay for goods, and soon we will be able to pay for anything from theatre tickets to parking fees simply by sending a text message.

In Berlin, shoppers can already buy a drink by sending a text message to the vending machine. The charge is added to the monthly phone bill.

Experts believe it won't be long before so-called "mobile commerce" - or m-commerce - takes off, especially in countries with better mobile phone networks than banks.

In Kenya customers can borrow, transfer and pay money using SMS text messages.

In the UK, you could buy groceries from your local market, or pay a restaurant bill, simply by tapping your PIN into your mobile and pressing 'send'.

THE latest handsets send bank details via an infrared beam from the phone straight to the till.

In South Korea, they can be used with drinks machines, petrol stations and anywhere else with the "receiving" technology.

Mark Bowerman, from the Association of Payment Clearing Services, says: "People use cards more than cash, but the data on a card can be stored anywhere.

"There's no reason why it can't be kept on your mobile phone, or even underneath the skin on your wrist."

Consumer groups are suspicious of moves to abolish cash transactions.

Janice Allen, from the National Consumer Council, says: "One of the most worrying aspects of replacing cash is the reliance on making our personal information widely available."


640-630 BC: The first coins made in Lydia, Asia Minor.

30 BC: Julius Caesar issues coins for the Roman empire, including Britain.

AD630: Small silver coins known as sceats minted in south-east England.

AD790: King Offa introduces a silver penny - 240 from a pound of silver.

1281: Edward I issues three new coins, the ha'penny, farthing and groat.

1504: Henry VII issues shilling coins.

1560: The pound sterling is established by Elizabeth I.

1633: First note is issued as evidence of ability to pay.

1833: Bank of England notes made legal tender in England and Wales.

1971: Britain decimalises its currency.

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