Get Rid of Cash?

NACS Tech Event speakers talk cashless, anti-credit-card future

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

David Wolman

DALLAS -- Monetary payment took verbal hits on the morning of the third day of NACS's The Tech Event, with two speakers taking on the topic of payment.

Continuing the drumbeat against rising credit-card fees, Gray Taylor, executive director of the Petroleum Convenience Alliance for Technical Standards (PCATS), warned about 500 attendees about failing to take a stand against credit-card company control, as payments evolve into mechanisms like mobile devices.

In a larger sense, he said, c-store retailers need to be on the forefront of standards development, especially with how future modes of payment will develop.

"We want to make sure what happens down the line is palpable," Taylor said, noting how NACS and PCATS officials are attending worldwide standards-making gatherings. "The ball is being pitched today."

In a general session on the future of cash, author David Wolman, contributor to Wired magazine and The Wall Street Journal, spoke of the drawbacks of cash, especially in lieu of emerging payment technologies.

Using "Disney Dollars" as an example, he said families saving for two years to go to Disneyland may find that using Disney Dollars will save 10% to 15% on their vacation, which makes a compelling case. Airline dollars are a commonly accepted example as well, as are Facebook credits.

In his book, "The End of Money: Counterfeiters, Preachers, Techies, Dreamers," he said he announced the end of currency (or that it ought to end) and received a lot of pushback. Many advocates for "anonymous" payment sent him their opinions. Arguments included the "physicalness" of cash, its ability to allow people to budget, even the "heritage" of currency as a symbol of nationality.

Wolman noted several reasons why cash should go:

  • People are already used to the "abstraction" of currency with credit, debit and digital transactions.
  • The cost of producing, handling and protecting currency far outweighs its usefulness.
  • Cash helps criminals carry on their enterprises.
  • People hoard cash, detracting from its purpose of commerce.
  • It's a way for people to avoid paying taxes.

While advocating for the demise of cash, Wolman said the more exciting position was talking about what is edging out cash. Certainly the idea of a mobile wallet was an obvious example. With a mobile wallet, people can carry a multitude of credit, debit, prepaid and loyalty cards. They can carry monetary notes from different countries, with settlements occurring as he or she pays. He spoke of ideas such as "Bit Coin" that would stop issuance after a certain time and thus attracting value as a new form of electronic currency.

But he described mobile as essentially a tool, not the answer. He described a time when it would feel like shoplifting to go shopping, where a consumer—with hot coffee in one hand and an infant in another—would just say his or her name and pay.

Technologies already exist for people to read about something online, click a link and automatically pay for goods or services. He even mentioned a payment form that solves the budgeting concern, with people telling their credit cards to not authorize payments if they go over a previously agreed-upon amount.

The Tech Event is scheduled through the end of the week, with attendees ranging from CIOs, tech specialists, retailer operators, suppliers and industry consultants.

For more reporting from the conference, visit Angel Abcede's blog, Mobile 2 Go, on mobile topics on

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
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