Mobile Payments Likely to Replace Cash and Cards by 2020 According to New Study


A recent study has suggested that our current favoured methods of payment, credit cards, debit cards and cash may be a thing of the past come the year 2020.

The Future

Mobile payments is one of the most competitive and dynamic segments right now. Mobile carriers, credit card companies, Google, eBay/PayPal, Square, Intuit and various other startups are offering a range of tools, platforms and apps for local business owners, retailers and consumers. As adoption of advanced mobile devices such as smartphones has exploded in recent years, consumers have grown increasingly comfortable using their phones to transfer money, purchase goods, and engage in other types of financial transactions.

This new study was conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center, and revealed that the majority of survey respondents believe that swiping mobile phones could replace cash and credit cards both online and in stores by smartphone and tablet users within the next decade. Many of the people who took part in the survey said that the security, convenience and other benefits of “mobile wallet” systems will lead to widespread adoption of these technologies for everyday purchases by 2020.

The Survey

The survey results are based on a non-random, opt-in, online sample of 1,021 Internet experts and other Internet users, recruited via email invitation, Twitter or Facebook from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University.  Since the data is based on a non-random sample, a margin of error cannot be computed, and the results are not projectable to any population other than the experts in this sample.

About 65% of respondents said they believe that by 2020 most consumers 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. They also agreed that people trust and rely on personal hardware and software for transactions, and cash and credit cards will have mostly disappeared from many of the transactions that occur in advanced countries.

However, about 33% said they do not trust devices with Near Field Communications technology (NFC) that allow users to swipe their phones to make a payment at checkout and believe mobile payments will not gain a lot of traction by 2020.The report also found that embracing NFC technology will be slow due to a combination of privacy fears, a desire for anonymous payments, a lack of infrastructure to support widespread adoption and resistance from those companies with a financial stake in the existing payment structure.

Participants Views

For those that believe mobile payments will become commonplace soon, many referenced how the movement is already booming in many parts of the world.

“The 2020 date might be a bit optimistic, but I’m sure that this will happen,” said study participant Hal Varian, chief economist at Google. “What is in your wallet now? Identification, payment and personal items. All this will easily fit in your mobile device and will inevitably do so.”

But there are others who were more cautious about the prospect of mobile payments, and the cyber crime that could come with it.

Law expert Henry Judy said: “the monetary incentives for cyber-criminals to attack payment systems are so great that people will not migrate en masse to any new systems that are perceived as insecure.”

However, most of the surveys participants had the opinion that the most likely scenario would be a mix of the old and new:

Amber Case, CEO of Geoloqi, argues for this version of the future: “When credit cards arrived, cheques did not disappear, and neither did money. Although in some places either cash or cards are accepted, there are three main methods of payment. If another method of payment is added, we will likely have four methods of payment and retailers and businesses must accept another form of payment. Some systems may emerge that use completely smart payments, but there will still be other forms of payment available.”


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