Cash, cards, mobile payments: what will be the future of Italy?

The Coronavirus pandemic has led to many transformations in the world. In recent months, Italians have had to accept changes in the way they travel, work, study, communicate; in short, they have had to learn to live in a different way. Italy is experiencing a period of transition and evolution for what concerns the payment methods: cashless and contactless methods are becoming increasingly popular. 
Recently, electronic transactions, through cards and mobile payments, have increased to the detriment of coins and notes which could spread the Coronavirus. 

According to the ECB (European Central Bank) the use of cash had reached 80% before the pandemic, in Italy around 86%. The use of cash is a deep-seated Italian habit, this is why Italy is only the 23rd country in the European ranking for electronic payments. 

Carlo Bravin, partner of BCG (Boston consulting group), has said that “Italy lagged behind on digital payments, but managed to react like the others” and then he has added “we expect a boost from the European Central Bank on cashless, in continuity with the last few years. And that the habits of consumers, companies and retailers change”. 

The ECB, together with the European Commission, supports the so-called EPI (European payment initiative), that is the initiative to develop and promote an electronic payment system that will be valid throughout the European territory. A sort of “European credit card” that will be considered as an alternative to traditional circuits already on the market such as the well-known PayPal, Mastercard and Visa. This project would accelerate the abandonment of cash in favour of digital payments. 

According to SumUp, a mobile payment company, in Italy there has been an increase of more than 50% in digital payments after the general lockdown and with the reopening in May. 

But, what are the disadvantages of this change? On the one hand, the reduction in cash payments has probably helped to prevent the spread of the virus (for hygiene reasons) and has also prevented the financing of illegal activities and tax evasion, but on the other hand it could lead to an increasingly inequality. For the people who do not have the opportunity to have a current account, for those who have difficulty accessing the internet or for those who are not familiar with the world of digital technology, the matter becomes more complicated. 

In the evolution of the world of payments considering the positive aspects, but especially the negative ones, will there be a total abandonment of cash or will this “journey” to a cashless and contactless society take a long time? 

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