Cash is not cool - or at least that's what the purveyors of "contactless payment" want us to believe.
I'm currently working in Singapore for the summer. Here, mobile-wallet technology, which allows users to pay for transactions below $100 by swiping their mobile phone across a reader, is set to enter the country by the end of the month. This follows in the wake of contactless debit cards.
One advert for this technology here shows a queue of people all happily paying for their goods with their trendy contactless cards, when a rather sheepish looking gentleman suddenly offers the cashier some crumpled notes from his wallet. That's the cue for the cheerful music to stop and everyone in line to glare at the man for holding them all up.
Who in the lightning-fast, no-time-to-shit twenty-first century - the advert implies - would bother messing around with a wads of dirty old notes and coins when such a sleek, chic method of payment is just around the corner?
Contactless payment works wonders in some areas. The EZ-Link card (Singapore's version of the Oyster card) on public transport speeds up the system and passengers even pay less when they use the card instead of cash.
However this mobile wallet technology frightens me. It seems to be another way to make you spend even more money on things you don't need.
When I buy a coffee from Starbucks with cash, I feel the pain of shelling out $6 acutely, as my $10 bill comes back to me in the form of two rather sad purple $2 bills. Paying by debit or credit card for such items is a lot less psychologically painful; you don't see the money you've spent until you bother to check your bank balance. Contactless payment merges the speed of paying by cash (indeed its faster) with the convenience of a credit/debit card payment.
My university in the UK offers a pre-paid card for buying food and drink on campus. Even with the 10% discount this card offered, however, I still managed to spend more per week on coffee than I had when I was paying cash.
After realising this and curbing my spending on this luxury, I was able to save a not inconsiderable amount of money which I eventually put towards something more worth while.
There is also an aesthetic argument against contactless payment. With contactless payment we lose the beauty of physical money. Cash may be something we handle on a daily basis, but many notes and coins are real objects of beauty when we study them closely. As a child, I had a little money box in which I collected coins from all different countries, fascinated by their different designs.
Contactless payment may be being touted as the future, but I reckon you're safer sticking with cash for the time being - especially in this economic climate.