Sweden leads the world in cashless payments

For the first time, Swedes have overtaken Americans when it comes to the amount of cashless payments carried out, a new report shows.

Sweden leads the world in cashless payments
A customer prepares to pay using his smartphone at a Swedish food shop. Photo: Anders Wiklund / TT

Cash payments are decreasing in number across the world, with Sweden leading the way in the march towards a near-cashless society.

During 2016, people in Sweden made an average of 461.5 digital transactions, which corresponds to a 13 percent increase in just one year, according to the annual World Payments Report. In the USA, the number of non-cash payments increased by just 5.2 percent under the same period, to reach 459.6.

Sweden is expected to maintain its high growth rate and hold on to its position as the world's most cashless society, the writers of the report said.

“This is the result of a trend which we've seen for a long time in Sweden. We Swedes are tech savvy and today we can buy more or less anything using card or a phone. What's more, we have a central bank that talks about e-currency,” explained Pascal Olin, payment and e-commerce expert at Capgemini, in a statement.

The key factor in Sweden's growth in digital payments is the fact the country has taken a range of initiatives to facilitate and support a cashless society, according to the report. This includes online payment apps, such as Swish, used by 6.33 million people in Sweden.

“The banks are unusually good at cooperating in Sweden. Besides Swish, earlier examples are Bankomatbolaget, Bankgirot and BankID. Very few other countries have these kinds of common solutions,” said Olin.

South Korea came third in the ranking after Sweden and the USA, followed by Finland and Australia.

OPINION: Sweden needs change to stop cashless future causing problems in times of crisis

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Brits in EU risk losing UK bank accounts ‘within weeks’

Some of Britain's biggest banks have begun contacting customers in European Union countries, warning them that their accounts will be closed down within weeks because the cost and complexity of operating without a continuation of pan-European banking rules is too much.

Brits in EU risk losing UK bank accounts 'within weeks'
Lloyds Bank expects to close at least 13,000 accounts. Photo: Lloyds Bank
According to a report in The Times, thousands of Britons who live in Europe face being stripped of their UK bank accounts and credit cards, because of the UK government's failure to agree rules for operating after Brexit. 
Each of the EU's 27 member states has different rules for cross-border bank accounts which will start to apply immediately the UK's transition period ends on 31st December 2020. 
“In some cases, continuing to serve customers would be incredibly complex, extremely expensive and very time-consuming, and simply would not make economic sense,” a source at one British bank told the newspaper. “This is passporting — this is the reality of Brexit.”
If a way is not found to continue pan-European banking rules, or passporting, UK banks will br breaking the law if they don't apply for new banking licenses in each European Union Country. 
Lloyds, Britain’s biggest banking group, began writing to customers in August, warning them that their bank accounts would  close down on December 31.
The bank estimates that 13,000 customers, including those based in Holland, Slovakia, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Portugal, would lose their accounts. 
“If customers have regular deposits into, or payments out of, their account, they will need to make other arrangements before their account is closed,” the bank said. 
Barclays and Coutts have also started contacting customers. 
“In light of the UK leaving the EU at the end of 2020, we continue to review the services we offer to customers within the European Economic Area (EEA), and any impacted customers will be contacted directly,” Barclays said in a statement. “The timings for account closure will depend on the type of product that a customer holds, but we will always give notice to customers.”
“In the event that no alternative to the European Economic Area passporting regime for financial services is agreed between the UK and EU, we have taken the difficult decision to withdraw from offering our services to clients who reside in the EEA,” Coutts said.