In recent years, Sweden has emerged as a trailblazer in the global shift towards a cashless society. As the use of physical currency dwindles, the Nordic nation has been quick to adapt, embracing digital payment methods with open arms. This transformation is not just a testament to Sweden’s technological prowess, but also to its society’s trust in digital infrastructure.
However, as the country forges ahead in its cashless journey, it faces unique challenges. Ensuring inclusivity for all citizens, safeguarding privacy, and mitigating potential economic vulnerabilities are paramount. As we delve deeper into Sweden’s adaptation to this new financial landscape, we’ll uncover the strategies, innovations, and lessons that other nations can glean from its experience.
To get the full picture of this development, we reached out to the local credit card experts behind the website Kreditkortsval.se and asked them to help us create this insightful guide.
Swedes Are Using Less and Less Cash
The decline in cash usage among Swedes can be traced back to the early 2000s, with the advent of digital banking and mobile payment solutions. As technology advanced, the convenience of electronic transactions became undeniable. Swedes, known for their early adoption of technological innovations, quickly gravitated towards these cashless options.
The rise of apps like Swish, which allows instant mobile payments similar to Venmo, further accelerated this trend.
Businesses are also adapting
Moreover, societal factors played a role. Sweden’s high trust in financial institutions, coupled with a desire for increased safety and reduced risk of theft, made cashless transactions more appealing. Retailers and businesses also began favoring digital payments due to their efficiency and reduced overhead costs.
Over time, these factors converged, leading to a society where cash is no longer king, but a diminishing presence in the pockets and purses of the Swedish population.
Card Payments are Increasing
As the use of cash in Sweden diminishes, there’s a clear uptick in card payments, a trend evident from the data presented by the Riksbank (Sweden’s Central Bank). The statistics show a consistent decrease in cash withdrawals from ATMs over the years. For instance, the number of transactions at ATMs dropped from 213 million in 2014 to just 58 million in 2021. In contrast, card payments have seen a steady rise. The number of card transactions increased from 2.62 billion in 2014 to 3.54 billion in 2021.
Notably, both debit and credit card usage has grown, with debit cards being the more popular choice among Swedes. This shift underscores the correlation between the decline in cash usage and the surge in card payments. As Swedes move away from cash, the convenience, security, and efficiency of card transactions make them the preferred mode of payment in the country.
Swish has Changed the Landscape Forever
When looking at the data from Riskbanken, there is a clear peak of card transactions in 2019. Since then, the number of transactions has slowly been decreasing and the reason being that the payment platform Swish started gaining traction.
Swish is the name of a payment platform that allows for instant transactions between users – both private and businesses – similar to the Venmo App. Swish is now one of the most commonly used forms of payment in the country, and its popularity is increasing on a yearly basis.
Three Leading Credit Card Companies
In addition to Swish increasing in popularity, credit cards have experienced a similar journey, overtaking market shares from regular bank cards. In turn, this has resulted in an evermore competitive credit card market with some highly innovative and Swedish credit card companies.
Remember Bank has a credit card called Re:member Flex, which is one of the most popular credit cards in Sweden today. The card has no annual fees, great travel insurance, and most importantly it provides users with exclusive deals (up to 25 % off) among the bank’s 300+ partners. At the end of the month, the deals are converted to a cashback.
Resurs Bank is a rather new bank that is fully embracing the shift in payment methods. Today they provide three different credit cards for different uses.
- Resurs Classic – A credit card without annual fees and a rather low max credit, and somewhat limited benefits.
- Resurs Gold – This is the most popular card from Resurs Bank. It gives bonus points for every transaction, has fantastic travel insurance and can be used to pay bills, rent, etc.
- Resurs World – As the name entails, this card is developed for those that travel a lot. The benefits while traveling are endless and the card gives twice as many bonus points as Resurs Gold.
Lastly, we have Bank Norwegian which is a Norwegian bank with close affiliation with the airline Norwegian Airways. This card is also free to own (no annual fee), and it provides a wide array of benefits.
One of the best features of Bank Norwegian’s credit card is the ability to choose between either bonus points for cheaper flights and accommodation, or a classic cashback. This flexibility makes this a solid credit card for most users.
The Potential Risks of not Using Cash
As societies transition to cashless models, several potential risks emerge. Foremost is the exclusion of individuals without access to digital banking, exacerbating financial inequalities.
Cybersecurity threats rise, with increased chances of large-scale hacks and data breaches. A total reliance on electronic systems means vulnerabilities during power outages or system failures, potentially halting commerce. Privacy concerns escalate as every transaction becomes traceable, potentially allowing undue surveillance.
Lastly, in extreme economic downturns or crises, a lack of tangible currency might hinder trust in the financial system, leading to heightened panic and instability.
A Few Last Words
Sweden’s rapid transition to a cashless society, marked by dwindling cash transactions and a surge in card payments – especially credit card payments – positions it at the forefront of this global trend.
While the shift promises efficiency and modernization, it’s not without challenges. Risks like financial exclusion, potential cyber threats, and privacy intrusions underscore the need for a balanced approach to ensure both convenience and security in this evolving financial landscape.