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Cashless conundrum

On most days, AnnaKate is cash-less but doesn’t mind going cashless.

My mother uses a smartphone but she never deletes photos from her phone. Somehow, every three months, she’ll ask me, “Please send me the photos from your graduation in 2017 and that beautiful sunflower you sent last week”.

She’s afraid that with one wrong tap she’ll delete her arsenal of good-morning graphics. And what if those deleted were not photos but money in an e-payment or a banking app?

For this reason, my mother is slightly technophobic. Many of her accidental taps had led to her deleting her albums, dampening her confidence to venture beyond her photo gallery.

Granted, not everyone is like my mother. We vary in level of digital savviness, which translates to varying degree of e-payment adoption.

Digital payment was already on the rise but COVID-19 has resulted in an acceleration nobody anticipated.

Malaysia reported higher cashless payment transactions compared to other Southeast Asian markets, Mastercard Impact Studies revealed.[1] The study noted an 18% increase in Malaysian consumers’ cashless payments use in April 2020, with debit and credit cards being the main beneficiaries.

Cash usage, on the other hand, declined significantly by 64% whereas contactless credit and debit cards increased by 22% and 26%, respectively, in the same period. However, it is indisputable that cash is simple and straightforward; its tangibility is what forms the foundation of its safety.

E-payment is not always welcomed with open arms. . It has its own set of hassle and security concerns.

Setting up an e-payment account with credentials and multi-layered verifications could be a turnoff if you’re not determined enough, unless you have a RM50-stimulus.

How about the part where you learn to trust that this system is secured? How to accustom yourself to the intangibility of transactions? How do you ensure that you won’t accidentally empty your bank account with a scan?

To say it is a steep learning curve is an understatement. My mother would agree. I too had my doubts about going cashless when I’m already cash-less.

With what seemed like a troublesome start and a little reluctance, I’m here to tell you that the initial anxieties too shall pass. I now have come to embrace digital payments; even prefer it whenever and wherever possible.

If I have to choose to accidentally dropping two RM50 notes or my e-wallet (my phone, duh), I would not be worried about dropping my phone. Dropped notes might go unnoticed but not the thump (or my heartbreak) of my phone when it hits the ground.

Admittedly, I still get the occasional jolts of scares when I perform cashless transactions especially if it involves a few hundreds. But, with each use, I am more convinced of its convenience and safety.

Contrary to popular belief, digital payments are intrinsically more secure than cash – despite the many valid concerns about their security.

Most digital transactions offer varying degrees of security and non-acceptance. There is the ability to dispute a credit card charge which one cannot do with cash payments. [2]

E-payment provides real-time money trail. In the overall scheme of things, , the authorities have more transparency to audit trails, money laundering and financial frauds – not too good news for those with darker intentions.

Will this render cash obsolete though? Not in the foreseeable future -- I think.

Besides natural resistance to all things new and legit security concerns, the material aspects of e-payment has to tick the boxes too. The upfront investments required by e-payments are a major consideration. It is definitely more than just owning a smartphone with mobile internet access.

And if you plan to be a fugitive, cash is king - still.

It would take a while before Malaysia can be fully digitalized. Outside of key urban centers, we still have 20% of areas in Malaysia with poor to no internet access.[3] Sabah would attest to that.

Infrastructural capabilities have to be carefully assessed and addressed before the hurdle is jumped. Nonetheless, it is an inevitable and good advancement.

Meantime, don’t be afraid of the usurper that is e-payment. As with all changes in life, it takes time and some frictions to bring out the best in things. I’m just content to have the best of both worlds now.

[1] [2] [3]

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