'Gustaf can remember the precise date when he last used cash. 'It was October 7 last year,' he told me without hesitancy.
'I found an old note that I had forgotten about and used it to buy some sweets.'
Like many others at his university in Gothenburg, Sweden, Gustaf relies on cards and smartphones to spend money. 'None of us use cash – you just don't need it these days,' he said.
But there is one problem – a big one. The 20-year-old computer science student keeps losing his bank cards, along with others that swipe open electronic locks for his apartment, gym and lecture halls. 'I laugh about it but it is very inconvenient.'
So he plans to get a tiny microchip, scarcely bigger than a grain of rice, injected into his hand which he says will make life easier as well as being 'cool and futuristic' – following the lead of at least 4,000 other Swedes as their country hurtles into a brave new world without hard cash.
They have chips inserted under their skin – usually above the thumb – to pay for their coffees and bus and train travel, waving a hand across payment machines as if using a contactless card.
This blending of human beings with technology sounds like science fiction. Yet it comes as this Nordic nation – the first in Europe to issue banknotes more than 350 years ago – leads the global march into a cashless society.
Britain is close behind, coming third in a recent analysis of cashless economies, with barely a third of retail transactions still made in notes and coins.
Even pubs and cafes have started to go cash-free, while about 300 cash machines close each month.
It's a headlong rush that has alarmed many in the UK – and prompted the MoS to launch the Keep Our Cash campaign.
'If we don't take action now in this country, we're only a couple of years away from Sweden,' warned Natalie Ceeney, the former financial ombudsman who headed a review on access to cash published earlier this year.
Notes and coins represent just one per cent of the Swedish economy, compared with an average of ten per cent across the rest of the continent as cafes, shops and even banks stop taking cash.'
Read more: How going cashless allows Big Brother to spy on your every move: As thousands of Swedes get payment chips implanted in their hands, a backlash is growing amid fears of data abuse
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2 November 2019
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