Convenience is always attractive, but relying on your phone for paying for things does have its downsides:
- The battery issue, again…
- Security: you’re responsible for your phone not getting hacked.
- The inherent fragility of software: OS upgrades that arrive with glitches, entire payment systems going down, etc.
- Hardware is fragile, too. And more readily stolen: when you’re not actually buying something, your wallet or purse tends to stay out of sight. Phones, not so much.
The obvious alternative is to use bank cards:
- They’re tiny.
- They make it easier to move on from the “I couldn’t possibly leave the house without a computer” mindset.
- For extra security, you can use a credit card rather than a debit card. This way, if you are hit by fraud, it’s the bank’s problem, not yours. (But pay it off in full each month: perhaps have two credit cards, one for everyday expenditure and one for actually buying things on credit.)
And is cash just for old people?
- It’s heavy, bulky, losable and stealable.
- But it’s tangible, real. It has continuity, your great-grandparents used it. The current surge in virtual living is being paralleled with a dramatic increase in anxiety, depression and similar conditions (10% of the UK are now on antidepressants – a situation reflected in other wealthy countries). That’s not to say that everything can be blamed on not using cash, but it’s certainly true that having a less physical, unshared reality is bad news, and shifting away from cash is one of the factors that engender this.
- Again on a psychological level, there’s something about cash that makes financial self-control easier. Or would you rather hang on until AI replaces willpower, and all your purchases are subject to e-approval, parents-style?
- You can give cash to buskers.
Internet banking also seems very convenient. But it too brings disadvantages:
- All software is potentially hackable.
- The human-based alternative – speaking to actual people on the phone – will cost you a few minutes each month. But how contactless do you want your life to be?
- Choose a bank that has a decent call centre, put their number on speed dial, memorise your account number, learn their automated menu system – it’s almost as fast as an app. For the UK, we recommend the Manchester-based staff of the Co-op Bank.
- The smartphone’s ability to display a travel ticket is another gateway drug that leads you into a life of always having to carry a computer – and always thinking how much charge its battery has … plus the indignity and security risk of perhaps having the contents of your phone (your life) cloned at passport control, your data retained and always hackable.
- But plenty of people manage perfectly well without having tickets on a smartphone. Again, at the cost of a few minutes a month, in terms of printing out tickets.
- Also, it’s possible to send a text message from a computer to a voicephone that is capable of displaying a QR code.
- One compromise is to have a cheap smartphone that is set up specifically for travelling, perhaps with a different SIM that is orientated towards use abroad.
- Better still, a mini tablet: as well as being able to display tickets, it will have a screen that’s fit for purpose in terms of watching a film or two while travelling, and using electronic maps once you arrive at your destination.