It does not seem long ago that people in a supermarket queue often used a cheque to pay for their groceries.
It was not a fast process – the purchaser filled in the cheque and their cheque guarantee card was checked by the cashier.
Gradually credit cards came to be accepted in most big supermarkets, and that too was a slow process at first that sometimes caused frustration to customers queuing behind. Now card use is widespread in such situations and faster. Debit cards even have one-touch payments which are faster than any other method, and growing in popularity.
It is now cash that seems cumbersome and slow, as the purchaser rummages around for bank notes, the legitimacy of which have to be checked by the cashier, who then has to find and add up change before handing it over to the buyer.
Technology is so rapid that debit cards are set to overtake cash to be the UK’s most frequently-used payment method by 2021, not just in supermarkets but in all situations.
This is all a fast track to the rapidly diminishing value of cash. Already cash is used in less than half of payments (it is the most popular method of payment, but it is not a majority of payments when considered against alternatives such as debit cards, credit cards, transfers and other methods).
There might even come a time, decades hence, when cash ceases to be legitimate tender.
Think what can be done on phones and on the internet and with sophisticated travel cards such as the Oyster card in London (that tracks all movements and all credits or debits of funds to the card by precise time and location).
The prospect of a cashless future might sound grim, because we are so used to having bank notes and coins and the sense of freedom it confers. But when we get used to the convenience of the alternatives, it might be an advance that almost everyone welcomes. It might also be that such technology enables us to stay one step ahead of theft and fraud.