Enough with the talk about moving to a cashless society. Sure, that works if you’re Sweden and some other wealthy Scandinavian countries, but for much of the world, the demand for cash seems to be growing, not shrinking. Actually, we’re in a bull market in ATMs. Millennials don’t seem to understand how credit cards work and many shun them altogether (in a recent study, 63% of this demographic doesn’t have a credit card).
Many people don’t qualify — or don’t want — traditional credit products. According to PayNearMe, a fintech firm that handles cash payments for its users, more than 28% of U.S. consumers prefer to use cash because they either don’t have a bank account or choose not to rely on automatic payments, checks and credit cards.
A more realistic evolution of how the move away from cash plays out probably doesn’t include bitcoin, either. So far, the cryptocurrency is relegated to hackers and drug pushers.
What does have legs are apps and services that bridge the digital and analog worlds of payments. These tools provide more digital alternatives for people who still prefer the ease of use and comfort in touching paper money and coin.
This app was designed for people who prefer to pay their bills in cash. PayNearMe users download an app and use it to scan their rent, utility and insurance bills. To pay, they bring their smart phones and cash into one of 17,000 retail locations around the U.S. like 7-11s and Family Dollar Stores. A cashier takes the cash, credits the app with the exchange, and the bills get paid.
The Glendale, California-based company has raised over $70 million and recently announced the acquisition of a personal finance management (PFM) app, Prism Money. With Prism, PayNearMe can handle more breadth of its users’ payment cycles.
For users who eschew banks, there’s some virtual banking technology tied to debit cards that looks and smells kind of like a bank, but doesn’t require an account. GreenDot sells debit cards that can be loaded with cash at local storefronts and those cards function just like bank-issued ones. Users can add, send, and manage their money tied to their cards.
GreenDot is publicly traded on the NYSE ($GDOT) and has a marketcap around $1 billion. The company did close to $700 million in revenue during 2015.
Ever travel overseas and come back with six pounds of British pounds? Yeah, me too. Turns out that’s a pretty common occurrence. TravelersBox is an ATM-like kiosk installed in various airports around the world that will take your spare foreign currency and move it onto PayPal or a Starbucks gift card, or give it to charity.
The company has raised $14.5 million in venture and seed money.
WU has its own prepaid card called NetSpend and it functions similarly to GreenDot’s debit cards. Users can direct deposit their payroll and government benefits directly to their cards, as well as make money transfers off the card. Money transfers utilize Western Union’s transaction network in 200 countries. Users can use their cards to pay bills online and save for the future via access to a WU savings account.
Western Union provides its own branded cards but its branch locations are also available for people to load money on to other prepaid card brands.