Why we should bring back the $500 note and other big bills

A world without cash seems wonderful at first glance since it is convenient and fast. You don’t need to withdraw dollars or euros ahead of time. You don’t have to worry about money being lost or stolen. Paying for things with your phone is a breeze.

Many countries around the world are steadily shifting away from cash. Canada, the United Kingdom and Sweden have already largely embraced a cashless society. The U.S. is also steadily making the move, with people holding smaller amounts of cash.

However, the recent string of natural disasters and security breaches at major financial entities exposes a huge flaw in this trend: When the power goes out, telephone lines shut down or account information is stolen, it is impossible to use ATMs, credit or debit cards or mobile payments – no matter how rich you are.

In other words, giving up cash increases the chance of the kind of economic catastrophe that results when people can no longer easily trade for the goods they need and want. The solution to this national security issue is simple: bring back the currently maligned large denomination bills like the $500, which was discontinued in 1969. Continue reading

How Economics Helps You Save Money When Traveling Internationally

The number of international travelers is soaring. Many travelers need different currency as they arrive in new countries.  In the past, travelers using an ATM, credit or debit card were simply charged for purchases and withdrawals in whatever currency the locals used.  For example, U.S. travelers to France were charged in Euros when they used their credit card in Paris.

Recently, instead of being simply charged in the local currency many travelers are being asked if they want to pay in their home currency.  Companies offering the service call it “dynamic currency conversion.”  For example, some U.S. travelers to France are now asked if they want to complete transactions in dollars.

The change is occurring because ATMs and credit card terminals now have the ability to check where a card was issued.  Then international travelers can be asked whether they want to use their home currency for their transactions.  The question seems innocuous, but agreeing to use your home currency in a foreign land can inflate the cost of every purchase. Continue reading

Do Businesses Have to Accept Cash?

We’ve been talking about society’s transition to a cashless society for a long time, but it begs an important question: Can stores and other retail establishments refuse to take your dollars and cents?  As odd as it sounds, this is not hypothetical anymore as a small number of stores and industries have stopped accepting cash and allow payment only by credit card, debit card or via a smartphone app. Continue reading