London Diary – ‘Moneyless’ Economy Is the Way to Go

Jal Paddy,

London buses stopped accepting cash fares as of last week. Instead, passengers will only be allowed to use prepaid cards or concession tickets whenever they board a bus.

This travel card called ‘Oysters’ looks just like your normal ATM card and has to be pre-loaded with money at the numerous top-up points, shops and stations. One then needs to touch-in at the start of their journey on a yellow card reader at the bus door entrance, and the fare for the journey is deducted.

The move follows a Transport for London survey that showed only one per cent of bus passengers use cash, anyway. This change will see a more efficient bus service with small inconveniences, such as bus drivers looking for change or passengers rummaging through their bags and wallets for the right change, having been dealt away with.

Most Londoners already pay for goods and services either by credit or debit cards. What the Transport for London is doing here is simply keeping up with the current evolving consumer trends. In London and many parts of the UK today, one can choose to use just their credit, debit or mobile phones to pay for goods and services without touching paper money even once.

Anything from bubble gum, fuel, newspaper, oranges to a fridge can be bought with the use of a card. At my local gym, my member card acts as access card to the gym, with the monthly gym fees of pound20 taken off my bank account every month through a direct debit arrangement.

The day I skip payment or cancel the direct debit, my membership card would automatically ‘refuse’ to allow me through the gym entrance barriers. Now these are the workings of an almost ‘moneyless’ consumer society, and yet for an average Londoner like me, I am not even anywhere near the pinnacle of this.

The more trendy consummers are already using contactless mobile payment systems, where one simply holds their mobile phone some metres from a contactless payment reader and payment is approved. I find the paperless systems of payment quite helpful in keeping track with my past transactions and for budgeting and planning purposes.

When I was last in Kampala this May, I was quite surprised that online banking and the use of cards for everyday transaction had not progressed much from its initial stages of ATM card use and checking bank balance through sms alerts. This, despite the number of licensed commercial banks shooting past twenty and mobile phone companies marshalling into banking territory.

These banks effortlessly arrange for automatic monthly loan repayments from their hundreds of clients with a different account from the banks in which they took the loans. Why then are services like standing orders, direct debits and ‘full’ online banking not being offered en-masse to the general public? Merely checking one’s balance via sms alerts cannot be termed as online banking in any sense of the word.

These local banks can only maintain their relevance by providing and promoting ‘paperless’ banking solutions which would eliminate queues and reduce the headache and stress customers currently face in banking halls.

Otherwise, looking at how effective and popular money mobile is, I see Ugandans fully turning to the mobile phone companies for their ‘banking’ needs. They will then start looking afresh for someone to provide them with an efficient mobile network service – a job Ugandan mobile phone companies seem quite poor at.

Your friend,


Source : The Observer

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