If you’re one of the 43% of people in America who don’t carry cash with them, you’re likely to reach for your card or phone to make the payment. In fact, more and more people in the U.S. and around the world aren’t paying with cash at all when they go shopping.
Some countries, like Japan, are making big changes to ride the cashless wave, while in others, cash remains king. Presuming that someone has access to both and can choose between them, there are lots of factors that can influence someone’s preferred method of payment.
For example, you might like that cash is readily available from ATMs, and physically accounting for it can help you budget better. But banking apps, online payments and digital wallets enable you to organize your income and outgoings at the touch of a button, and to make quick and efficient transactions.
Both sides of the argument have strong points, and everyone has their own individual preference — but like it or not, non-cash transactions are on the increase worldwide, indicating a move towards a cashless future. So, where do countries and U.S. states stand on the issue today? We turned to Twitter to find out whether people are more for or against a cashless society.
What We Did
For each country and U.S. state, Merchant Machine calculated the proportion of negative and positive tweets about going cashless using an AI sentiment analysis tool. A country was determined to want a cashless society if they counted a larger proportion of positive tweets than negative.
- The majority (54) of countries want to go cashless
- Only two U.S. states (Alabama and Delaware) don’t want a cashless society
- Vietnam is the most pro-cashless country in the world
- France, Italy and the UK are among the most anti-cashless countries
The Majority of Countries Want to Go Cashless
Overall, we found that the majority (54) of countries want a cashless society, while the 32 countries remaining in our analysis reject the idea. Among the countries that are done with cash are the U.S., Canada, Russia and Australia. All but four of those pro-cashless countries (Cyprus, Switzerland, Austria and Germany) post positive tweets at least 25% of the time.
Some of the ‘want’ countries on our map are leading the world when it comes to developing a cashless society. Of them all, Sweden is by far the closest to achieving a totally cashless society. According to the European Payments Council, only 1% of the country’s GDP is represented by cash, and cash withdrawals have been declining 10% annually.
Instead of cash, many people in Sweden use Swish, an app created by six major Swedish banks back in 2012. Cashlessness is important culturally, too: as the official Swedish website proclaims: “Cashless payments very much go hand in hand with the Swedish lifestyle.”
Every U.S. State but Alabama and Delaware Wants a Cashless Society
Our data reveals that every state but two (Alabama and Delaware) wants to go cashless. It makes sense that the majority of Americans are okay with parting ways with cash: fewer people in the U.S. are using it at the checkout than five years ago, and four in ten (43%) people don’t carry it at all. Even President Biden is exploring the possibility of a digital dollar.
The COVID-19 pandemic is considered to be a watershed period in America’s embrace of cashless methods. One YouGov poll found that over a third (36%) of people in the U.S. who preferred to use cash to make payments found themselves making cashless payments more during the pandemic.
Vietnam Is the Most Pro-Cashless Country in the World
Of all the tweets made in Vietnam that mention cashless payment methods, nearly two in three (62.73%) are positive. That makes Vietnam the most pro-cashless country in the world. Not only does Vietnam have a fairly high rate of non-cash transactions (an increase of 76% from 2021), but a new government project plans to encourage a cashless society in the next few years. Between 2021 and 2025, the project’s four main objectives include making non-cash payments a standard in urban and rural areas and developing a safe cashless infrastructure.
Other pro-cashless countries, according to our data, include Trinidad and Tobago (56.10%), Poland (47.76%) and Ukraine (46.83%). Though cash is still important in Trinidad and Tobago, plans to make the country a cashless society are in the works. In 2020, the FinTech Association of Trinidad and Tobago was launched to “facilitate a globally competitive ecosystem that will establish Trinidad & Tobago as a leading FinTech-enabled society.”
Most U.S. States Are Positive About a Cashless Society
Our data reveals the percentage of positive tweets posted about cashless societies in every state in the U.S. The most positive states are South Dakota (where 39.22% of tweets are positive), North Dakota (38.78%), Iowa (38.48%) and Wisconsin (38.27%). Most states in the country tweet positively about going cashless at least 25% of the time.
Local moves to transition away from cash in South Dakota include Wind Cave National Park’s switch to cashless payments. In North Dakota, a proposed bill to ban cashless stores — a move already made elsewhere in the country — was rejected.
But why are Americans so in favour of saying goodbye to cash? According to one study, a third (33%) of Americans feel that not having cash would make travelling easier, while others think that cashless payments are more efficient and better for budgeting.
France Is the Most Anti-Cashless Country in the World
France is the most anti-cashless country in the world: over half (54.40%) of the tweets posted there about going cashless are negative. According to a 2019 study, cash is the dominant payment method in France, making up 59% of transactions, and nearly half (44%) of people in France think it is “important” or “very important” to have the option to pay for things in cash. More and more people in France are also choosing to withdraw cash from their bank accounts and keep it at home.
Other anti-cashless countries in our analysis include Belgium (where 47.23% of tweets are negative), Italy (46.62%) and the Ivory Coast (43.07%). Despite more than 23 million people in the country barely using cash in 2021, the UK (29.30%) is also fairly anti-cashless, according to our analysis. One YouGov poll revealed that nearly two-thirds of people in the UK think that using cashless methods increases the chance of falling victim to fraud or theft, and a petition that sought to protect cash as a payment option reached over 200,000 signatures.
Anti-Cashless U.S. States Are in the Minority
While the majority of states tweet positively about going cashless, not everybody on Twitter is as happy about the subject. The most anti-cashless states based on the proportion of negative tweets include Delaware (35.85%), Montana (28.57%), Alaska (28.57%) and Rhode Island (27.14%).
In the U.S., there’s been backlash against moves to make stores totally cashless. In fact, Delaware happens to be one of the several cities and states in the U.S. where cashless stores are banned, along with the likes of San Francisco and New Jersey. Public criticism has also seen store chains like Sweetgreen reverse their decision to go totally cashless.
There are some very valid reasons to keep cash flowing. One of the demographics that would be impacted by going completely cashless is America’s “unbanked,” i.e., the 6.5% of U.S. households without any sort of bank account.
How Would You Like to Pay?
With so many neobanks, digital wallets and apps making it easier than ever to pay for things without cash, it’s clear that a cashless future is a reality for many, and it’s one that lots of people look forward to. That being said, our research shows just how divisive the subject is.
While there are many benefits to going cashless, one of the key problems of a cashless world is that it would affect people without access to a bank account or the technology to use it. When it comes to how quickly we’ll reach a totally cashless future, it’s likely it won’t be anytime soon; as Henk Esselink of the European Central Bank comments, “In 2030, a considerable share of payments will still be in cash, at least in terms of the number of payments.”
For a full breakdown of how positively or negatively each U.S. state and country tweets about going cashless, explore our table below.
Methodology & Sources
To gauge each country and U.S. state’s sentiment towards cashless payments, we retrieved geotagged tweets containing the following search terms: Cashless, Contactless, Google Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Microsoft Wallet, PayPal, Alipay, Facebook Pay, Walmart Pay, Mozido, Dashlane, Veno, Zelle, Paycloud.
We removed any duplicates, allowing only a maximum of one tweet per account per day. We only assessed tweets written in English, Spanish, German, French or Italian.
We then applied an AI algorithm using Hugging Face API to classify tweets as having a positive, negative or neutral sentiment. This allowed us to classify places as “wanting” or “rejecting” a cashless society based on whether the % of positive (want) or negative (reject) cashless tweets was higher.
Finally, we ranked all regions by both % of positive and % of negative tweets to create maps that show which states and countries have the strongest sentiment toward wanting or rejecting a cashless society.
The results for the countries were further filtered by adding a minimum threshold of 100 tweets, leaving us with 88 countries.
Our data was collected in September 2022.
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