Will COVID-19 kill CASH?

At some point in the future, historians will no doubt discuss the pre- and post-coronavirus periods. Today, there are already many societal and economic assumptions that are being openly questioned as the dystopian nightmare plays out.

Endless GDP growth? The sanctity of markets? Sneezing? Shaking hands? Spectator sports? 5G? The trade in wild animals? The concepts of economic value and personal risk are being redefined before our eyes. New norms will take their place.

One of the most likely casualties of a coronavirus rethink is hard cash, the very lifeblood of commerce for centuries.

To offer a personal anecdote, your author happened to be entering a remote Utah National Park just as the dangers of coronavirus were starting to find traction in the U.S. in March. “I am officially able to take cash, but I’d rather not,” said the amiable but worried national park guard at the entrance. “Those corona germs stay on cash for days sir. We don’t like to touch greenbacks no more.”

She was not the only Middle American reticent about handling cash. As coronavirus has spread, what seemed like an overly cautious attitude in the second week of March looks stone-cold rational in early April.

Cash distancing

A million miles away from the lonely beauty of Utah’s desert landscapes, global cities such as London and New York are in lockdown in a desperate bid to limit Covid-19 deaths. Avoiding the dangers of cash has become a critical and accepted element of efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus for billions of people.

Across Europe and the U.S., thousands of cafes, supermarkets and newsagents have banned cash transactions. The New York Post reported that a taxi driver died of Covid-19 which it was suspected he caught from a cash fare. And, as early as February, China was disinfecting cash with ultraviolet and/or heat treatments in an effort to restrict the spread of coronavirus.

What is becoming clear as coronavirus continues its deadly spread is that the world’s trepidation about cash is entirely logical.

Dirty cash

That cash is covered in germs is nothing new. The U.S. Federal Reserve calculates that the lifespan of various dollar notes ranges from 4 to 15 years, while multiple studies have illustrated that paper bills carry bacteria and viruses and can spread disease.

Old, dirty and germ-ridden is not a good look at the best of times, never mind in the midst of a deadly pandemic.


The danger of cash when it comes to Covid-19 is not that the virus can penetrate the skin. It’s that once it is on the hands, it can easily lead to infection if it is then transferred to your mouth, nose or eyes – especially if you consider that in many cultures eating with bare hands is very much the norm. Cash itself might not kill, but it sure provides a helping hand.

Credit card payment terminals, too, can be a coronavirus hazard. Governments and experts have urged consumers to use non-contact digital payments wherever possible because the virus can remain on plastics and metals for days after being touched by someone infected.

Race to digital

There is no doubt that coronavirus is accelerating the shift to cashless shopping as fears that coins and notes spread infectious diseases encourages greater use of digital payments.

The head of the ‘Access to Cash’ campaign group admits that temporary shifts away from cash will likely find traction and represent a “dramatic shift to digital”. A pizzeria owner in the UK that now refuses to accept cash adds: “Once people get the idea that money can be a bit dirty and can be infectious, that idea will stick like cheese and they will avoid it.”

The former president of Bank of China is now urging China’s central bank to speed the release of its planned digital currency to reduce reliance on cash and credit cards and help prevent a resurgence of Covid-19.

As economic growth forecasts are downgraded almost daily, increasingly it seems that if the world suffers ONLY a recession this year that will be fortuitous. Amid the chaos, most expect things will get worse before they get better. When the worst is over, many elements of our old normality including the perception of personal and commercial risk will be reimagined.

After so many thousands of deaths, the fear of handling cash – once the very essence of commerce and societal interaction – is unlikely to dissipate.

Is that a toilet in your wallet?

The US Federal Reserve has USD$1.75 trillion of notes in circulation. And each one of those notes can reportedly carry more germs than a household toilet. You wouldn’t wipe your hands on a toilet; indeed you wash your hands after going near it. You put disinfectant down it. You flush it. You put toilet blocks down it. And what do we do with bank notes? Hand them around like hand sanitizer at a music festival, with the direct opposite effect.

Money is disgusting. We spend so much time trying to avoid germs and viruses and yet we freely exchange bits of paper that carry them around. We stick them in pockets, wallets, under mattresses and, yes, for those inclined to certain types of narcotics, they put them up the nose.

The Chinese government finally cottoned on to that this week as it continued its fight against the spread of the coronavirus. While the boffins attempt to understand the virus, their thinking is that it can be transmitted by surfaces, so what better home than a surface that may change hands several times a day? Chinese banks must now disinfect their cash with UV and high temperatures, before storing it for 7-14 days prior to releasing it. You can insert your own money laundering joke here.

According to Time magazine, money is not only capable of transmitting germs, it’s actually better than a normal surface. One story suggested it can carry a live flu virus for up to 17 days. That same story also mentioned the presence of fecal matter… but let’s just leave that one for now.

Talkin’ about an evolution

The history of money, or currency, is fascinating. Back in the day shells were used as a means of exchange. Tally sticks were used for transactions. Gradually the concept of currency evolved into coins and the notes. It’s easy to see why. Cheques became popular and still were until the 1990s. But as early as 1918 our friends at the Federal Reserve, with its USD$1.75 trillion of cash, started moving currency by telegraph. A transaction with no physical interaction. Not long after, the notion of credit cards was born.

But only in the last 25 years has the idea of contactless payments for individuals really taken off. (We have issues with the term ‘contactless’ when we’re also asked to ‘tap and go’ as that seems oxymoronic, but in terms of our current preoccupation the ‘contact’ part is important.) A form of transaction where you don’t have to touch anything, never mind touching something that’s had many previous dirty owners. That makes sense from a technical and a health point of view.

All of which brings us to our main point. There are many benefits for a cashless society. Many of those propagated by digital money-moving companies revolve around technology, speed, cost and transparency.

But never more than this week, when laundering cash has become a way of protecting people instead of protecting criminals, is it more apt to make the point that digital currency is hygienic. Sending money via a phone app or your laptop or a card, or pretty much anything that isn’t a bit of paper, has to be a better way to keep everyone healthy.

The Adventures of Stevie V might have sang about ‘Dirty cash’ in 1989, but while they suggested that Money Talks, they’d have been better off suggesting that Money transfers a whole host of unhygienic micro-organisms that could cause you to get sick.

It wouldn’t have resonated, but it’s more accurate.

Cashing Out

Do you know where all your cash is? Or have you stuffed some in your furniture and forgotten all about it? Sounds fanciful, but it isn’t, as Howard Kirby found out recently when he bought a second-hand ottoman and thought the cushion was harder than it should be. He unzipped it and found over USD40,000 inside. We know this because he was honest and returned the cash to the owner.

In 2013, a Connecticut rabbi bought a desk for USD$150. When he couldn’t get it through his door he took it apart, which was serendipitous for the previous owner because he found USD$98,000 in there. Being another honest chap, he took it back whence it came. That’s just two cases… imagine how much other money is nestled in the soft furnishings of the world. And don’t get us started on Pablo’s millions. They’ve made a whole TV series about that.

It’s not just absentmindedness that can lose your cash. Pickpocket. Sleight of hand. Theft. Burglary. Handbag grab. Armed robbery. There are multiple ways people can relieve you of your hard earned. According to Quartz, consumers in the US lose USD$500 million a year in theft, and businesses a whacking USD$40 billion.

The problem with physical cash is that when it’s gone; it’s gone. It’s not like it has your name on it. (That would be somewhat impractical really as it changes hands so often.)

And then there’s the money you do have that’s perfectly safe, but that you just don’t value enough to bother with. Coins now are somewhat redundant for many people; more of an inconvenience than an object of value. Even as far back as 2007 (wow, that sentence makes us feel old) a survey by Chevrolet calculated that in the UK 6.5 billion pennies had somehow disappeared. That’s £65 million (and 22,000 tons) of completely disposable hard cash. In one country alone.

Cash as a physical entity is also a pain in the arse to deal with. Think of all the times you had to nip to the ATM, wasting a few of your precious minutes on this planet. That’s before we consider the fact that ATMs often charge you money for the privilege of getting cash that you own. Or there’s time spent depositing cash in the bank.

Bigger businesses spend many thousands just moving the physical stuff around. That’s a lot of moving targets for criminals.

As well as speeding transaction times, digital payments reduce crime rates dramatically. Unlike cash, the sender and receiver can both be tracked by both parties to a transaction. Secure gateways make digital transactions hard to tamper with. Payments can be made online or over the phone.

Society more generally benefits too. No cash in the cash register equals no robbery. No cash in the vault equals no violent break-ins. And digital money does not need to be driven around by middle-aged security guards in vans which may as well be branded ‘bountiful loot’. (And, let’s be honest, who needs another Hollywood heist movie?) Put simply, hard cash is a soft target.

We’re not going to pretend that digital money isn’t without pitfalls. The last financial crisis illustrated that putting your money in a bank is risky if the financial system fails. Banks also close for weekends, preventing urgent transactions by businesses and individuals. And, with such high overheads, transactions fees are high.

Cryptocurrencies offer solutions to many of these problems. Blockchain systems used for crypto transactions are far more sophisticated than a signature or pin number, enabling the owner to retain complete control of their assets.

When payments are ‘pushed’, crypto allows you to safeguard your personal details (unlike credit card transactions). Funds are received faster and fees are lower.

And cryptocurrency-based peer-to-peer settlement systems are available 24/7, 365 days of the year.

We could go on, but the message remains: If you think cash is answer to your money security concerns, perhaps try asking a different question.

THE CASHLESS ECONOMY: Are we ready for it?

The coronavirus outbreak became a catalyst for the popularity of cash-free payments in many countries.

More than a decade since the world’s most recognized cryptocurrency – Bitcoin – was introduced, we are witnessing an unprecedented growth in the market today. With over 6,000 cryptocurrencies in existence, the combined value has breached the $2T mark.[1]

There are telltale signs that mainstream acceptance is closer than we think as cryptocurrency finds its way to public consciousness. Business tycoons, Hollywood celebrities, big-name athletes and influencers have now chosen to accept it as part of their wages or include it in their financial portfolios. Some Fortune 100 companies have begun embracing blockchain. And payment giants can no longer ignore the demand for crypto payment as a method.

No doubt, cryptocurrencies are bound to change the way we live. This is no more evident than in how we do our day-to-day financial transactions. As we live in a fast-evolving digital world, blockchain technology is changing the landscape of the traditional financial system. And crypto is likely to play an important role as we move closer to becoming a cashless society.

The pandemic effect

Alongside the growing interest in cryptocurrency and blockchain, the coronavirus outbreak became a catalyst for the popularity of cash-free payments in many countries. And for good reason. Several studies have long proven that cash is a public health risk. As bank notes and coins are commonly passed around, disease-causing germs and virus can easily be transmitted form one person to another.

That’s why long before the advent of covid-19, many have been advocating contactless cash-free transactions. And in light of the global campaign to end the pandemic, many heeded the call and started to minimize the use of cash. Hence, the inevitable rise of cash-free payments.

In 2020, a study from UK Finance shows a 35% drop in cash transactions. About 83% of their consumers now use contactless payments. Some countries in the European Union are urging their citizens to reconsider their attitudes toward cash, as necessary protective measures to end the pandemic have been put in place. According to the German Credit Agency, more than half of the payments currently made in Germany are contactless, compared with 35% before the pandemic.[3] By 2023, Sweden is poised to become the first truly cashless society.[4]

This mainstream adoption of cashless payments has also paved the way for the unprecedented increase in the use of digital wallets. When Google released the world’s first major mobile wallet in 2011, it took quite some time before consumers warmed up to its potential. But by 2020, mobile payments have grown faster than any other payment method. Today, as more innovations like QR codes and 5G have been introduced, e-wallets have not only revolutionized the way we pay for goods and services. They have also made transferring of funds much more accessible and convenient.

But as we deal with the persistent issue about data privacy, the question remains: does the e-wallet really give consumers a great sense of security? This is one contention that can potentially give crypto payments a stronger foothold in a cashless future.

The emergence of DEX

As cryptocurrencies continue to reach global prominence, we have seen the emergence of exchange platforms that make cryptos more accessible for mainstream consumers.  With the number of users worldwide reaching more than 220 million,[5] we are also witnessing a massive growth on decentralized exchanges.

Crypto applications are built on decentralized blockchains, where transactions are performed on a peer-to-peer basis. As there are usually no traditional intermediaries such as banks or brokers, users don’t need to provide their information, and in many cases, there are no registration requirements for using the exchange. Aside from this, transactions via DEX result in significant savings in remittance costs (traditional cross-border service fees can go as high as 7% of the full amount, considering the charges by intermediaries).

These are just a few of the potential benefits that attracts the Internet generation to the use of DEX platforms.

Crypto in everyday living

We now live in a world where cashless payments are widely accepted and cryptocurrencies are gaining momentum. But volatility is possibly one of the reasons that prevent mainstream adoption. While many enthusiasts are drawn to the potential income from crypto investments, many advocates believe in the possibility’s cryptocurrencies offer in the digital future.

Crypto may not replace cash in the current financial landscape. But being a usable currency, it is bound to create its own ecosystem fit for a new generation of digitally savvy consumers. Our own Ducatus Coin (DUC) was created mainly for this purpose, following the path started by Bitcoin. The Ducatus vision doesn’t end in the introduction of a coin or a token. It is constantly evolving and with every step we take, our aim is to enhance usability. Our affiliate businesses like Ducatus Café accept DUC as a form of payment. We also actively recruit merchants who are open to accepting DUC and opening their doors to a new kind of consumer – the crypto spender.

Our Ducatus wallet does not only store digital money, it allows the user to swap between currencies, purchase coins and even stake these coins to earn more coins, depending on their chosen duration. As an advocate of a true cashless economy, Ducatus advances digital payments and allows users to benefit from the use of digital money in their everyday lives.

For some visionaries, usability is the driving force behind the movement that promotes the value of cryptocurrencies in a truly cashless economy – an economy that is open, unique and offers boundless opportunities. It is not coming soon, it is here now. The question is: Are you ready for it?