Cash and Smart Phones in China

Back in May, I wrote about the central role that Smart Phones play in the day-to-day life of those in mainland China. In particular, you are considered odd if you try to pay for just about anything with cash. Now, The New York Times has an article that serves as a nice followup.

According to the Times, cash in urban China is rapidly becoming obsolete. This evolution has been remarkably swift: three years ago, cash was used for most transactions. Now, as I said, its use is considered odd. The secret to the fast uptake and near universal acceptance of digital payments is the use of QR codes. Instead of expensive card readers, merchants simply provide a print out of a QR code that the customer scans with his smart phone. That means that even very small merchants—even street musicians—can accept digital payments with virtually no cost other than the transaction fee.

The author of the article says that, so far, this trend has not moved outside of mainland China, not even to Hong Kong. I look forward to seeing its use spread to the West, although as I said in my original post, I hope it’s not through single portal like WeChat that has privacy implications.

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