Bjorn Ulvaeus, one-quarter of Swedish pop group ABBA, became a standard-bearer for a world without cash after his son got burgled. Ditching coins and banknotes would hurt criminals and tax-dodgers while helping businesses and government budgets, he reckoned. "Sweden would be the ideal country to make cashless," he told Bloomberg in 2014. "I think that should be the future."
Nearly a decade later, he's almost got his wish. A minority of Swedes said in a survey they'd used cash in the previous 30 days, while a whopping 95% of 15- to 65-year-olds has downloaded mobile payment app Swish, owned by lenders including Danske Bank A/S and Swedbank AB. Phone tapping and card swiping dominate shopping, donations for the homeless and church collections. Cash transactions declined to 8% of business payments at the end of 2022 from 18% five years earlier, estimates Jonas Hedman of the Copenhagen Business School. With such low volumes, it's effectively unprofitable to handle cash.