Hold a dollar bill in your hand, and hold it tight, dear reader. It’s possible that, within your lifetime, these beautiful, cocaine-smeared, nearly worthless rags might be phased out, in favor of completely invisible currency — digital currency, made up only of the most notional value of all: pure numbers. It’s either a beautiful thought or a terrifying thought, and perhaps it’s both all at once. However you feel about it, however, this week’s news was dominated by the future of money.
Canada, our friendly neighbor to the north, is leading the charge toward a cash-free future. It came out this week that Canada would be phasing out their penny. It costs them 1.6 cents to manufacture a penny. The things lose value as soon as they’re pressed into existence, and the exact same thing is true of the American penny. Almost simultaneously, the Canadian Royal Mint announced that it would begin making something called MintChip — the first state-backed digital currency. Exciting stuff, but will it lead to rampant hyperinflation and trillion dollar Canadian bills? Well, probably — and hopefully! — not.
Stateside, tech giant Google doubled down on its Google Wallet product this week, by acquiring TxVia, a prepaid cards issuer. Despite all the setbacks, Google refuses to lose this battle. And by purchasing TxVia, the company has upped their security bonafides. They have also announced that 12 new smartphones from Sprint will be able to carry the Wallet — as opposed to one, currently.
Whether they’ll be successful will likely be determined by the level of adoption among carriers and consumers. Google did convince a lot of people to move digital files onto Google Docs, and work from the cloud. Perhaps they’ll do the same for your wallet. Work spreadsheets and your entire checking balance are two different things, however.
There’s a bit of anxiety about non-cash payments these days, especially after the details of the Visa/MasterCard breach came out this week. Some 1.5 million accounts were compromised by a data breach at Global Payments. “Who’s Global Payments?” you might be asking yourself. They’re a third party payments processor, and they compromised lots and lots of data.
What other companies are out there who handle your data, and which you’ve likely never heard of? We thought of a few, and tried our best to explain what they do. Nothing necessarily nefarious, but lots of random, faceless tech and data firms handle (or design the software that handles) your personal data.
With all this fancy high-tech stuff transforming the industry, there is an obvious equality concern: what happens to those of use who can’t afford a smartphone, or qualify for a credit card? That’s an important question. Fortunately, the prepaid industry is making strides toward maturity. This week, NetSpend and BET partnered to launch a new prepaid card, targeted at African-Americans, who are un- and underbanked in greater proportion than other ethnic groups. The card offers a fair set of fees, and a nearly full range of banking services. Compare that to the RushCard, and it’s hard not to be happy about the advancement of this industry.