Cash is dirty and inconvenient stuff. Electronic exchange methods are much better for so many reasons. For years futurists, bankers, techies, and science fiction writers have been predicting the eventual end of the cash economy. It is easy to believe that the days of pulling folding money from your wallet are nearly over.
There is no getting around the convenience of credit and debit cards. The growing development of paying using a cell phone of other mobile device is an interesting trend, and someday a similar practice may even displace the cards.
One of the biggest fears with credit and debit cards is that if they are stolen, they can be used anywhere. The same is true of cash of course, but at least with the electronic paper trail of cards, the wrong-doer can be tracked and his crimes corrected. Stolen or lost cash is effectively gone for good.
The very anonymity of cash can be its greatest strength, and a big part of the reason it will never completely go away. In the great Cuisinart of life, there are many times that a record of each and every transaction is not a good thing. It is hard to imagine a drug deal going down on a credit card, which is an argument against cash, but there are plenty of other transactions that occur on a daily basis where anonymity is a good thing. For example, having a record of the purchase can keep you from buying a present for your girlfriend (especially if you don’t want your wife to find out!)
The lack of records usually works to the benefit of the vendor. This is not to say that there is any dishonesty going on, but a certain amount of “accounting flexibility” is possible when cash is figured into the bottom line.
Cash is the best friend of service providers, especially those who rely on tips. First of all, cash is an easy way for tippers to express their largess. Those receiving tips usually do better on a “keep the change” basis than a formulaic gratuity tacked onto a credit card stub.
Charity could be a victim of a cashless economy. The Salvation Army has experimented with “Cashless Kettles” for their Santa’s but it is likely that the take will not be as great as the satisfying clank you spare pocket change makes when it goes in the pot.