Contactless Payments in Poland

Over the past ten years, contactless payment has become a fact of life in much of the world. It’s obviously a lot easier simply to swipe a card than to use the cumbersome Chip-and-PIN system or, worse, sign a receipt as some countries seem eager to continue (despite the rest of the world joining the 21st century).

Perhaps this comes down to banking regulation or perhaps it is cultural, even in some of Europe’s most advanced economies; for example, Germany has found its citizens resistant to forms of payment other than cash and paper invoices.

That’s not the case at all in Poland, which has become an enthusiastic early adopter of the contactless payment system. Since the introduction of contactless payments in Poland ten years ago, the percentage of the population making use of the contactless system has skyrocketed.

In December 2018, 85% of cashless payments in Poland are made with Polish contactless cards. Recently, the number of contactless cards in Poland actually surpassed the number of citizens of Poland. Mathematically, of course, that means that not only do Poles, on average use contactless payments, they actually have more than one contactless card.

Part of Poland’s advancement, of course, has been the influence of the Cashless Poland Foundation, a committee set up specifically to increase the advancement of contactless technology in Poland. The work of this committee, particularly its efforts to provide small businesses with free contactless terminals, has rapidly increased the Poland’s willingness to pay with contactless rather than cash.

Poland presents a great case for a move toward a cashless society. Given that money is no longer backed by precious metals, there’s no reason that we’re still using paper as legal tender: the 1s and 0s in software are a perfectly acceptable alternative.

The benefits of going cashless are numerous: not only does this provide better records of transactions. This of course has obvious effects such as proving a deterrent for fraud and severely curtailing under-the-table transactions that, among other examples, promote organized crime and provide incentive for people–often undocumented immigrants–to work for sub-poverty wages.

Furthermore, in systems that use more creative technologies such as blockchain, there will exist an accessible, non-localized record of transactions that make fraud exceptionally difficult.

That’s not to say that contactless payments have all these advantages at the present moment, but a shift away from cash is necessary to achieve them. Nevertheless, people are wary of this shift. It’s difficult to say why, but it may just be cultural momentum in the same way that someone would prefer a paper invoice to a PayPal transaction.

Poland, however, is rapidly proving that a cashless society is the way of the future.

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