Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The end of cash?

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A few Canadians may regret the demise of the penny with its distinctive Maple Leaf and image of the Queen on the obverse, but they will have to overcome their nostalgia quickly because the nickel could be next, followed by the dime, the quarter and so on.

The penny was actually quite valuable when it was first struck in 1858, and even baby boomers remember when it could fetch a few pieces of candy at the corner store. Alas, the one-cent piece lost it value over the decades, making it an inconvenience that not even a child would bend over to pick up.

But if the penny fell victim to the rising cost of living, technology could eventually devastate all forms of currency. The idea of a cashless society used to be the stuff of futurists and science fiction, but we're nearly there already.

Billions of dollars in trade are spent through the Internet. Online banking and ATMs have replaced lineups at the teller, while the use of the Kindle and similar devices, which allow people to acquire books electronically, has exploded, and even smartphones can be used to make payments.

As the technology advances, hard cash will become irrelevant and as inefficient as a horse-drawn plough. It now seems only a matter of time before consumers can make point-of-sale purchases through fingerprint or eye identification, meaning no one would need a wallet, much less a nickel in their pocket. In time, even the $100 bill will seem quaint, and just as useless as the penny.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 5, 2013 A6

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