NORTH COUNTY – Is paper currency a dying breed? Many of the currency that has survived throughout centuries may eventually go the way of the dinosaur.
With the proliferation of e-mail, online shopping, text messaging, social networking, and the myriad other digital avenues that fill up a person’s day, the concept of writing something on paper – or paying for something with paper – may seem archaic. It is easy to wirelessly transfer funds from one bank account to another or pay for items with the click of a mouse.
Still, the general public has been hard-pressed to give up on paper money altogether. However, alternatives are chomping at the bit, and it may not be too long before all money is digitalized, or before the world reverts back to gold, silver or another currency that has actual intrinsic value.
Consumers are increasingly turning to debit and credit cards to pay for products in stores and online. The rise of mobile credit card readers attached to smart phones and tablets has enabled everyone from small business owners to regular individuals to collect money by swiping a credit or debit card and having the funds automatically deposited into an account of choice.
Although it once seemed like paper currency would always be around, such a concept is quickly falling by the wayside. The United States Department of the Treasury announced that paper checks for Social Security payments would be a thing of the past starting in 2013. Recipients can have the money deposited electronically in a bank account. For those without accounts, deposits can be loaded on a Direct Express Debit MasterCard to be used for purchases just like any other debit/credit card.
Many people already have witnessed the phasing out of government tax refund checks. A large number of people file their income taxes via the Internet, receiving any refunds electronically. Payroll and other benefits are increasingly becoming digital-only as well.
Removing paper currency in all forms has its share of pros and cons. The U.S. government has said that taxpayers will save about $300 million the first five years after the changeover to digital social security checks. By not having to send out more than 100 million checks, the federal government will save millions on postage and printing costs. Electronic currency also benefits the environment.
A significant concern with regard to electronic currency and receipts is the likelihood of identity theft, as data breaches occur with some frequency. In September 2012, some major financial institutions, including like Bank of America and PNC Bank, found their websites were sporadically inoperable due to a cyber attack. These situations often open the eyes of people who realize how susceptible personal information can be when only backed by digital numbers and codes.
Also, unlike paper money that limits what thieves can steal, digital breaches can lead to entire accounts being wiped out if the breach is not noticed in time. Other personal information, such as spending habits and shopping patterns, may be deduced from electronic information stored with accounts, raising questions about privacy.