article summary essay of the death of cash in the fortune july 2012 edition

Cash has long been the major method people used to pay. However, recent trend showed that cash is being replaced by other paying methods. Miguel Helft, the author of the article “The Death of Cash” in Fortune July 23, 2012 edition, described this trend by introducing Jack Dorsey, the Twitter co-founder, who is setting up a new cashless payment business with his company, Square. First, the author described the cashless future, derived from the technology developed by Square, while also explaining about the enormous business size of the future cashless payments.

Then he illustrated some problems and obstacles in pursuing this future. Lastly, he stated the potential of cashless future, by mentioning the demands of the people in America for the use of new cashless payment technology. II. History of Payment Types 1950 – Present Credit card was invented in the 1950s. As the internet network technology developed, people became free from time and space barriers in payments. Recently, Square developed a credit card reader that plugs into a smartphone. This device catalyzed transaction process, lowered transaction fee, and eventually led people to pay even easier than before.

Now “with powerful smartphones and tablets” (121), Square developed apps called “Pay With Square” and “Square Register”. “Pay With Square” is an app that allows people to pay solely by their mobile phones; customers do not even need to pull their cell phones out of their pockets. “Square Register” is an app that “allows merchants to run stores from an Apple iOS device” (121). The app keeps track of customers and inventories. Therefore, not only it offers discounts and loyalty deals to the customers, but it also allows the merchants to design strategies to deal with their consumers.

With Square’s innovative technology, giant technology companies’ intervention, and Americans’ demand for new payment method, mobile payment technology is expected to change the whole trend of financial transaction. III. Implications of a Cashless Society Using Square’s apps, customers can get recommendations, suggestions and discount offers related to the items of interest. The customer’s phone wirelessly functions as a billing and paying method. Merchants also use Square’s apps not only as a way of transaction, but also as a way of designing marketing strategies, by collecting customers’ purchase pattern data.

Mobile phone will be a substitute for credit cards, cash, checks and gift coupons. Now major tech and sales companies such as Google, VeriFone, MasterCard, PayPal, E-Bay, and Amazon are showing deep interest in the current change of the transaction trend. Eventually sellers and buyers’ relationship will be customized both on-line and off-line. Sellers will apply their marketing and sales strategies into the apps. Buyers will easily get personalized information of their interests. IV. Difficulties with Process of Start-up

Despite the enormous potential of all-in-one sales technology, some obstacles and problems do exist. Competition among the major companies is making the public confused. The society is flooding with novel paying methods. Yet there are no agreed “common technology standards and platforms” (121). Customers might be perplexed, thinking about which apps or devices they should use in certain situations. Another problem is an issue of popularity. “Until mobile wallets are more mainstream, retailers won’t rush to accept them, and until wallets work in more places, consumers won’t embrace them” (126).

The new mobile transaction process needs to be more popular to both the sellers and buyers in order to appear in the mainstream. V. Negative and Positive Consequences Regarding the huge potential effects in the future, this innovative mobile payment technology should be meticulously elaborated. It is quite obvious that as easier the financial transactions become, higher rates of financial fraud or deception may result. Privacy issue is another problem to be solved. Internet is already suffering from securing privacies, and the mobile payment technology can even facilitate this tricky issue.

Secure protections from counterfeit and privacy misrepresentations are critical, like vaccines against virus. Some might insist that the change of payments will be problematic to people without smartphones. However, this will not be a big issue. According to the author’s citation of James Slavet, a venture capitalist at Greylock Partners, “[t]here is no ubiquity, so a mobile wallet is a complement to your wallet, not a replacement” (126); still, people without advanced mobile technology can pay by other classic methods without any issues.

After the problems and difficulties mentioned above are sorted, the revolutionary mobile wallet will be ready to proliferate in the public. Communication among the companies, sellers and buyers would be more efficient and malleable than ever. They will easily give effective feedbacks to each other; increased consumer participation would indeed lead to a better service, and vice versa. As the trend of money change, the whole marketing and sales scheme will induce and fit in to the trend.


Miguel Helft. “The Death of Cash. ” Fortune 23 July. 2012: 118-128.

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