Is cash in danger of disappearing?

Is cash in danger of disappearing?

Even the quest becomes dematerialized. This Saturday evening in September, around a hundred faithful attended the mass given at the Saint-Jean-Baptiste parish of Grenelle, in the 15th arrondissement of Paris. At the time of the offertory, Christophe does not need to dig deep into his wallet. The 45-year-old faithful uses one of the connected baskets that circulate in the aisles, selects the amount of his donation on the screen (2, 3, 5 or 10 euros) and places his bank card on the contactless reader. Hop! That’s it. “As I have less and less cash on me, I find the device very practical,” he says.

Tested in 2018 in three Parisian parishes, the dematerialized collection is becoming commonplace in churches, where 2,200 connected baskets are currently deployed in 78 dioceses. “The objective is not to make traditional collection baskets disappear but to adapt to new uses,” assures Pierre-Yves Caër, director of economic affairs at the Conference of Bishops of France.

Because species are losing ground. According to the latest survey by the European Central Bank, 43% of in-store purchases were paid by bank card last year in France. In 2016, this figure did not exceed 27%. The share of cash in transactions has fallen from 68% to 50% in six years. Cash payment options have melted like snow in the sun. Since the attacks against Charlie Hebdo, in 2015, ban on individuals paying in cash amounts exceeding 1,000 euros, compared to 3,000 previously. “The authorities argue that bank notes are mainly used by fraudsters and traffickers and that in the name of security they must be eliminated,” underlines Patrice Baubeau, lecturer at Paris-Nanterre University.

Covid has accelerated the movement

The pandemic has given one more argument to detractors of cash, with money becoming a possible agent of contamination. “In Judeo-Christian culture, money has always been considered dirty,” continues Patrice Baubeau. During the Great Plague of London in the 17th century, some businesses were already dipping coins in vinegar. » Four centuries later, Chinese authorities disinfected banknotes with ultraviolet rays in the midst of Covid. France did not follow. However, instructions were given to favor contactless payments. To encourage good practices, the ceiling was raised from 30 to 50 euros. Enough to accelerate the transition to a cashless society.

Manager of a second-hand machinery trading company in Yvetot (Seine-Maritime), Antoine, 53, is not worried about it. “Less cash in circulation means less black money and therefore more declared money injected into our economy,” he argues. Thanks to these revenues, we finance our schools, our hospitals, our pensions. » The banks are also pushing the wheel. Their argument? The risks of robberies incurred by their staff. Behind it, there is above all a matter of big money. “The objective is above all to redirect consumers towards paid means of payment,” says Loïc Daguzan, president of Indecosa CGT 75, a consumer association attached to the CGT. Between the annual fee, fees on withdrawals made from ATMs of other banks, and account maintenance fees, bank card transactions represent a juicy windfall. Conversely, printing, transporting, collecting and verifying tickets is expensive. Hence the reduction in the number of automatic teller machines (ATMs).

The five million people who do not have access to banking services can still protest. According to a report from the Banque de France, published last July, the country now has only 46,249 ATMs, or 12% less than in 2018. Result: in many rural departments, withdrawing cash is now the route of the fighter. Sometimes you have to travel ten kilometers before finding a machine. A phenomenon which is expected to worsen with the merger of the network of distributors of BNP Paribas, SG and Crédit Mutuel by 2025. We expect to see the number of devices halved.

As a consolation prize, banks have set up “private access points” which allow withdrawals from certain merchants. But the service is far from being the same. Transactions are only accessible to customers of the network to which they belong and can only be carried out during the opening hours of the merchant in question, and not 24 hours a day like a traditional ATM.

Some municipalities are therefore organizing the response, such as La Vôge-les-Bains, in the Vosges. Did Crédit Agricole close the last ATM at the beginning of 2023? Never mind. The municipal council used its funds to finance the installation of a new kiosk. Cost of the operation: 55,000 euros, to which are added every month 1,000 euros in costs invoiced by the private company which ensures the supply. A world for a town of 1,700 inhabitants. “I believe that it is not up to the municipalities to finance this equipment,” storms the mayor, Frédéric Drevet. “But a spa town that doesn’t have one puts local commerce in difficulty. We must therefore fight to maintain them. For me, ATMs are real public services. »

Better manage your expenses

An opinion widely shared among the French. According to the Banque de France, nearly three out of five people claim the possibility of paying in cash. Among the reasons given? Protection of privacy, but also better management of expenses. “With contactless, we don’t really feel like we’re paying, this can lead to a loss of awareness of our limits,” warns Nicole Prieur, philosopher and psychotherapist, co-author of Family, money, love (Ed. Albin Michel).

To avoid this risk, Manon, 30, has gotten into the habit of using the budget envelope system. Every month, she withdraws part of her salary in cash before distributing it into different envelopes, each corresponding to a type of expense: shopping, leisure, health, etc. “This system allows me to make savings and really see what that I spend,” she testifies. “I don’t know what I would do if cash disappeared. » The scenario seems unlikely. Sweden tried, but faced with the increase in the rate of over-indebtedness, the country ended up backtracking.

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