Inconvenient cards should be phased out

I’m still trying to work out the advantages of the latest idea in plastic cards (MW November 19).

As I understand, you had to queue to obtain cash from a cash point with a cash card, or had to queue to cash a cheque. You then queued at another machine to put the cash back in again and charge up a second card, which you could then use at a restricted number of outlets to obtain a limited range of goods or services.

When you reached the pay point (cash point?) at one of these outlets, you had to select the correct card from all the others, feed it in to another machine and hope it works first time, that it wouldn’t need wiping clean, and hadn’t been corrupted by other cards in the same wallet, your mobile phone or one of the magnetic security devices near the door of almost all shops now. (Are those things safe?)

If all went well, this machine emptied some of the credit off the card and you then had to return to the start, get more cash, reload the card and begin all over again. What happened if there was insufficient credit on the card for the intended transaction? To see how much credit is left on the card at any time required yet another machine, another queue, and another bother. And you wonder that the scheme was not a success!

Because of the proliferation of little plastic cards now required to conduct the simplest transaction (there are cards for cash, for credit, for points, for debit, for loyalty, for each store, petrol station, for this chain or that) I recently had to buy another wallet to hold them all.

It occurred to me that there must be a simpler system; a way of holding credit that can be used in payment for goods or services and that is accepted everywhere without the need for separate versions for different purposes and outlets. It could be made of paper so that it is lightweight and saves space, or of a variety of denominations to suit special purposes. Seeing how much you had would be quick and easy, and its absence would be an obvious way to work out when you had none left.

We could call it cash.

Dr Christopher Flower



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