Mobile Payments Won’t Replace Cash or Credit for Another Decade

It will take another eight years for cash and credit cards to be replaced almost completely by smartphones.

In a survey of technology experts and stakeholders, conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center, 65 percent of people said they believe that mobile payment technology will be widespread by 2020.

Meanwhile, it found a dissenting view, with 33 percent of those same stakeholders believing it will take longer because people will resist technology that wants to learn everything about their personal purchasing habits.

Relatively few people believed that cash or credit cards will disappear entirely.

It’s unclear whether the 2020 date is optimistic or seems too far out given that so many companies are investing aggressively today. PayPal and Google are the two most notable technology companies going after the opportunity, but so are the incumbents, including Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Additionally, the U.S. wireless carriers are mapping out their own plans through a joint venture called Isis.

As part of the report, Pew published remarks from a few respondents:

Google’s Chief Economist Hal Varian said: “The 2020 date might be a bit optimistic, but I’m sure that this will happen. What is in your wallet now? Identification, payment, and personal items. All this will easily fit in your mobile device and will inevitably do so.”

Susan Crawford, professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, put it more practically: “There is nothing more imaginary than a monetary system. … Of course we’ll move to even more abstract representations of value. Other countries are already content to use their phones; we’ll catch up eventually.”

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— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik