Electronic payments haven’t hurt cash a bit

022515blog one dollar bills
REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Regular readers know that I am skeptical about e-wallet systems – not that they won’t be widely used; of course they will – but about talk that they will someday replace the leather kind.

Here’s another data point to support that skepticism: The United States government is still printing money like it grows on trees.

From a MarketWatch story:

In fact, the amount of small bills in circulation — $1s to $20s — has remained pretty resilient over the past two decades, according to Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist at Convergex. That’s even as Americans have become bigger users of credit and debit cards and have begun using online payments like (eBay’s) soon-to-be-spun-off PayPal, and more recently, Square (and) Apple Pay. Some have even used virtual currencies like bitcoin.

Adjusting for inflation and population, the value of U.S. small bills in circulation has declined a scant 1.8% over the past 20 years. Back in 1994, it was $414 for each person in the U.S., or $661 in today’s money, he said. In 2014, it was $649.

All those bills are not being carried around in smartphones.

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