Visa has set up a grand plan to help small businesses upgrade their digital payments infrastructure.
The company will be making up to $10,000 available to restaurants and food vendors to help them upgrade their payments technology.
This seems generous, though Visa clearly benefits from the deal too. After all, it’ll make these businesses more reliant on its services.
Kind of like a corporate Marshall Plan. A big company gives out financial aid and in return the smaller companies will be spending more of their money on their benefactor.
Of course there’s a catch. Visa ‘donates’ this money only on the condition that the beneficiaries stop accepting cash payments.
The initiative isn’t just a way of getting Visa more customers – it’s also going to push people more and more towards a cashless society.
“We’re focused on putting cash out of business,” Visa’s chief executive Al Kelly said last month, making the company’s intentions crystal clear.
Not that it’s particularly surprising that Visa is trying to get rid of cash. It’s basically the company’s biggest competitor.
But it’s not just credit card companies who have declared war on cash.
Central banks and governments have their own agenda when it comes to eliminating cash transactions.
The ECB, Australia and India are just a few examples of authorities that have recently scrapped high-denomination banknotes.
They say it’ll help fight illicit activities such as tax evasion, but there’s no denying that it comes with a cost to people’s personal freedoms.
A world without cash would likely see citizens handing over more power to financial companies (which will keep all your purchases on record) and governments (which will be able to view those records).
With no way of taking your money out of the bank, citizens could even be forced to involuntarily bail out banks or could see negative interest rates imposed on them.
Still, it looks like we’re headed in that direction.
Crypto-currencies are a game-changer
If the quest of governments to make all transactions digital is a revolution, then the emergence of crypto-currencies could be considered a counter-revolution.
“Beyond the realm of cash payments, no transaction is private. And your financial behaviour says more about you than anything,” writes Dominic Frisby in his book Bitcoin: The Future of Money?
“Banks, credit card companies, merchants and the government would all have access to this information on the internet.”
That’s why a group of computer savvy people started working on a way to strike back. They were looking to set up a digital cash system outside the scrutiny of governments and banks.
The creation of crypto-currencies like bitcoin, which aren’t controlled by governments or any other central authority, is a game-changer.
It’s given people a way of moving with the times and keeping (part of) their wealth digitally, without giving governments more insights in their transactions.
Of course, governments were never going to sit back and let this all happen without doing anything about it.
A growing number of governments are now looking to use the boom in crypto-currencies to their own advantage.
China and Canada are among the countries known to be working on their own digital coins that, in time, might be used alongside their official currencies.
The move towards a cashless society could be an unstoppable train. But currencies controlled by governments might not be the only accepted digital payment method.
If it becomes clear that governments are actually going to introduce negative interest rates and siphon money out of people’s bank accounts, the demand for alternative crypto-currencies could spike.