Swedish kronor
© A. Currell, Flickr Creative Commons
Physical money is going the way of the fax machine in Sweden. The country's sophisticated digital payment technologies are leading to a completely cashless society.

Cash is so taboo now that banks are hauling off old ATMs, several branches don't even have any on the premesis, and trying to pay with physical money is seen as just plain wrong. Kids get allowances added to their cards, and churches collect donations digitally. Use too much cash and bank staffers call the cops.

It all comes down to tech. Stockholm's KTH Royal Institute of Technology credits the mobile payment system Swish with helping the country shift away from physical kroner. Swish is a direct payment app used for person-to-person transactions in real time that began in 2011 as a collaboration among Danish and Swedish banks. It's revolutionizing the Swedish banking system, KTH researcher Niklas Arvidsson said in a press release.

He also predicts that Sweden will be completely cash-free in 15 years. If that pace seems slow, well, there are some kroner in circulation that would need to come out.

Swedes are humming about virtual money, money, money for safety reasons as well. Björn Ulvaeus of Abba fame began advocating for a cash-free Sweden after his son was robbed, the Guardian reported. (Don't bother trying to pay with physical kroner at Abba: The Museum.) Buses stopped accepting cash, too, after a bunch of drivers were robbed.

Payment Card Industry measures that make paying virtually more secure helped Swedes grow comfortable using cards for just about everything, including low-cost items. Sounds like a pleasant perk to living in a country that regularly tops quality of life lists. But it's worth pointing out that this banking shift is tough for the elderly, rural residents, the homeless, and undocumented immigrants.

Stateside cash still rules. Look how far a $20 bill can go. Even coins, which I've started to loathe for their bulky weight, have a place in the realm of laundry, cheap candy, and donation jars. And, although digital payments have grown, we're not becoming a cashless society any time soon. Somebody's gotta tip the bartender.