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Study Predicts the End of Cash and Card Transactions by 2020

Chase Bank has a new commercial that shows a woman at the zoo, stopping to deposit a check in the bank with her smartphone. She tells her daughter that all she has to do is take a picture of the check and it goes right into her bank account. Obviously confused by this marvel of technology, the child then freaks when mom uses her phone to take a picture of a lion. Cut to: lion prowling through the bank.

Clever and pretty cool. The way we bank is changing everyday thanks to online technology and smartphones. Most banks now allow you to transfer money and pay bills online. Some have systems that allow you to pay friends via an email address. And some allow you to swipe your phone over a reader in order to pay a cashier.

When you realize that smartphones are still relatively new to the world, we’ve come a very long way in a very short time.

So where do we go from here? The people who created The Jetsons back in the sixties, obviously figured we’d still be using wallets to hold our cash. Not so, says the majority in a new Pew study.

65% of people agreed with this statement:

By 2020, most people will have embraced and fully adopted the use of smart-device swiping for purchases they make, nearly eliminating the need for cash or credit cards. People will come to trust and rely on personal hardware and software for handling monetary transactions over the Internet and in stores. Cash and credit cards will have mostly disappeared from many of the transactions that occur in advanced countries .

I believe this is true for certain parts of the world, but unless every person owns a smartphone and we have mobile banking systems that work together, it’s not going to happen. Not by 2020, not ever.

Certainly, mobile banking has decreased our dependence on cash. I rarely ever carry any preferring the convenience and the record keeping of doing it all with debit plastic. If I could swipe my phone rather than my card, I’d do it, because it’s one less thing to juggle while I shop.

Pew asked a variety of experts to comment on the future of mobile banking and here’s my favorite response. It’s from Susan Crawford, Harvard professor and formerly a special assistant for technology policy for President Barack Obama.

“There is nothing more imaginary than a monetary system. The idea that we solemnly hand around printed slips of paper in exchange for food and water shows just how trusting and fond of patterned behavior we human beings are. So why not take the next step? Of course we’ll move to even more abstract representations of value.”

It’s a crazy concept when you think about it. I give you a piece of paper. You give me valuable goods. That paper is backed by gold hidden somewhere in the world. You give the paper to a banker and then use a different kind of paper to pay off your debts. The move to mobile banking simply means we remove the place-marker (the paper) from the equation. We’re still moving “money” from person to person, we’re just doing it with a line of code instead of a piece of paper.

What do you think? Will we be currency and card free by 2020? Or is total mobile banking a dream that won’t ever come true?