It’s printed on all the bills produced by the United States Department of Treasury: “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.” However, just because a financial instrument is backed by the full faith and credit of the issuing government doesn’t mean it’s going to be the first choice of the spending public. Indeed, a 2014 study found that 88 percent of Americans prefer to use debit or credit cards for purchases. In 2015 alone, Americans spent $341 billion online. Cash? It came in a distant third at 9 percent. Paying electronically is simply more convenient and more secure.
Furthermore, the growth in mobile payments is accelerating: From $52 billion total in 2014, they are expected to reach $142 billion by 2019. The private sector is embracing the pay-by-app trend, and with the rise of mobile ticketing so are many transit authorities. So why are so many city offices and public agencies still handling cash, when they could be serving their citizens – and themselves – better with mobile payments?
Local governments have ample incentives to encourage use of electronic payment methods for services. For starters, it removes cash from the transactional process. The advantages to this are many:
- It increases security of employees, facilities and infrastructure because there will be no (or less) cash boxes to break into and steal from.
- It reduces the chance of fraud, such as the use of counterfeit bills.
- It simplifies the bookkeeping process by making all purchase transactions electronic and thus easier to track.
- It frees up employees to do more critical work without increasing operating expenses.
- It eliminates physical infrastructure that is costly to maintain and replace, thus reducing capital expenses.
- It reduces the cost of handling and processing cash.
As for benefits to the consumer, ask anyone who’s ever forgotten to see if they have cash in their wallet or coins in their car before they reached the coffee shop, toll booth, or ticket machine, and you’ll have your answer.
Of course, cities and city services have to be available for all, whether or not citizens have a bank account, mobile phone or means of digital payment. But the digital trend is clear and the availability and use of digital payments is only going to become more ubiquitous over the coming years.
So the public is primed to use electronic payments and cities stand to benefit.
It’s up to city stakeholders to encourage this kind of innovation by identifying the outcome that’s wanted – in this instance, a cashless payment system – and creating a portal so private sector developers can access the civic data needed to create those solutions and allow innovation to thrive.
At Masabi we have integrated digital wallets such as Masterpass – the global digital payment service from Mastercard – and Apple Pay into our applications, making it easier to pay for transit services. The more cities embrace digital wallets and mobile ticketing, the more seamless payments will be, making our cities better places to live, visit and move around.
For more on how to make our cities smarter please download our ebook: Smart City Principles to Prepare for 2050: A Guide to Assessing Smart City Solutions