It is a challenging time for cash as a payment system. But not for the reasons that have been carelessly pedalled by some media. Let’s be clear about this. Cash is no more a vector for transmitting COVID-19 than many items we handle every day.
Here’s a more accurate view based on scientific tests: “there is no significant risk of catching the coronavirus from Euro banknotes,” the European Central Bank says, citing lab tests that showed that the germs survived far longer on other surfaces.
The Economist and ECB Executive board member Fabio Panetta says, “tests by European labs showed that the survival rate of coronaviruses is 10 to 100 times higher on a stainless steel surface, like a door handle, than on Euro banknotes in the first few hours after contamination.”
Dr Christine Tait-Burkard, Expert in infection and immunity at the University of Edinburgh states that “the risk of contracting the virus is very small unless someone is using the bank note to sneeze in, and coins are actually very bad environments for viruses to survive.”
Think about how many times you handle your mobile phone every day. Do you clean it regularly? Do you clean your credit cards? Do you clean the console in the store before you key in your pin to pay for your goods? Shining the spotlight on cash often has the very serious consequence of ignoring the risks surrounding other payment methods.
Challenges for retailers
The current environment has seen a rise in contactless payments. Will this continue in the short-term only, or will it last into the long-term? Contactless payment methods have been rising for some time. Does this mean that we were heading for a cashless society and the COVID crisis has just accelerated this process?
Contactless payments are a way for customers to maintain a measure of social distance from cashiers. However, it is not solving the problem for all customers, because it is not a solution that all can use or choose to use.
And it is vulnerable if system connectivity fails. What we do know is that regardless of how people pay, it is critical for countries to restart their economies as quickly, but as safely, as possible. This will be the ‘new normal’ for the present, and potentially for many months and years ahead.
The real challenge for cash as a payment method is not using cash, but how you exchange cash with your customers in retail environments whilst maintaining a safe social distance. Advice on this distance varies from country to country. In many countries, if retail environments want to re-open, they must abide by local regulations that involve social distancing measures.
So, what does a retailer do? Refuse to take cash? The data shows us that across Europe, consumers have adopted digital payment methods, but that they still choose to pay in cash for many transactions. Can retailers afford to turn cash-paying customers away as they try to get businesses up and running again?
Are we going cash-less? And if so, when?
If retailers are building strategies that assume a future without cash, the challenge is – when? In three years? Five years? 10 years? When do they think this will happen? The truth is that many stakeholders are involved in cash. Not least Central Banks.
There is no country that has created an environment that eliminates cash completely. Even in Sweden, the government advises its citizens to keep an amount of cash in case of an emergency. In the United States, some states, including New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Massachusetts are writing into law that cash must be accepted as a payment method.
Cash as a contactless payment COVID-19 has seen a rise in contactless payments. It has also driven an urgency in retailers to turn to cash automation. It is a way for retailers to implement processes that allow consumers to pay in cash whilst complying with social distancing regulations. Simply put, it turns cash into a contactless payment.
In this way, retailers can avoid turning away revenue generated by cash-paying companies and give confidence to both customers and retail staff at the point of payment. And it can be implemented as a self-service or assisted service solution.
As a solution, we at Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd are recommending the use of CASHINFINITY™ – a solution set from Glory Global Solutions – which are note and coin recycling machines that can handle cash in an accurate, efficient and safe manner. Front-office solutions within the product range can be deployed to help your staff and your customers keep their distance at the point of payment, transforming cash into a contactless payment method.
For every business person out there, the daily struggle at the end of the day is to reconcile cash, and CASHINFINITY™ backoffice solutions can do the reconciliation without the need to count any cash.
Notes are safely stored in a safe cassette, whereas the coins will be available as change in the machine for the next day.
The CASHINFINITY™ solution set comes in various sizes to suit every business need. For more information on how these machines can help to improve your operations while complying with current health regulations, get in touch.
In the current environment there will be less cash usage, but we are nowhere near going cash-less in the short or medium term. It is true that cashless payments have grown, largely driven by contactless and mobile payments, but it is also the case that cash in circulation continues to increase and there is no infrastructure in place to support a cashless economy in any country.
Recently there have been some highprofile examples of large organisations such as Amazon stores abandoning plans to remove cash altogether, and even legislative intervention to protect consumers who choose to use cash.
The challenge for retailers right now is to reorganise how consumers can shop and pay safely for goods so that they can re-open their businesses. To avoid turning cash paying customers away, retailers would be wise to look at cash automation solutions like CASHINFINITY™ that turn cash payments into a safer contactless transaction.
This interview was first carried in the June/July edition of the Commercial Courier