Avoiding pitfalls in the ease of cashless payment

Fu Shiyuan
Riding the tide of thriving fintech, mobile payments has become a common method of paying. This convenient way of payment fits the pace in a modern society.
Fu Shiyuan

Differences may never be avoided between millennials and their parents, as a changing society always leaves an everlasting impact on individuals’ opinions and values which are not easily reconcilable across generations.

As an adolescent born in the 21st century, I am always striving to find a balance point where I am able to respect the “conventional” view of my parents without losing my personal stance as a young millennial.

Recently I had an argument with my mother over my bills. Mobile payment, a trend sweeping across the world, is affecting the consumption pattern of nearly every individual.

I can still recall the “misery” of cash transactions in the old days, when I had to carry money when hanging out with friends.

The process of giving or receiving change was cumbersome. Worse, I couldn’t help worrying about the money I had on me, for fear anything should happen to it.

Mobile payment effectively puts an end to my worries in this respect: We can now make a deal with business people in a matter of seconds merely by scanning the QR codes in Alipay or WeChat accounts.

After I bound my Alipay account with my mother’s credit card, payment couldn’t have been easier: The transfer of money was done automatically in a blink of an eye. I found myself indulged in the convenience of cashless payments.

Or at least that was how I felt, until one day my mother showed me details of my online transactions.

Then I realized how often I spent money on the slightest excuses and how cashless payments have revolutionized people’s conception of money and consumption.

My mother criticized me for spending money in a lavish way.

I was reluctant to admit, though, contending that such an outflow of money was inevitable in a city like Shanghai, adding I was just making the usual payments previously done by parents.

I was less adamant after checking the bill carefully, and then it dawned on me that most of the items I had bought could be accounted as impulsive consumption, avoidable, and thus were a waste of money. Before this I had always, proudly, considered myself a rational buyer.

Mobile payment seems to have magically compromised my ability to exercise control, by dulling my erstwhile sensibility to the value of money. As digital payment does not involve physically parting with cash, money tends to be given thoughtlessly.

Thriving fintech

Riding the tide of thriving fintech, mobile payments has become a common method of paying.

This convenient way of payment fits the pace in a modern society where people value efficiency.

Particularly in a large metropolis like Shanghai, there’s a general ambience of approbation for this cashless revolution. In this respect, China is probably more an exception rather than a rule.

Take Japan for an example. Many Japanese tend to be more sceptical of cashless payment, chiefly on account of the fear of potential leaks of personal information that might lead to theft of their money.

Economically speaking, rising digital transactions help boost e-commerce, boost the bottom line for e-business, and attract foreign investment for local businesses by building an online platform marked by mobility and high efficiency.

However, as the nature of digital payments is closely related to credits and debits, overdraft or fraud still leads to severe personal losses. In this sense, digitalized indebtedness cannot in itself be viewed as an extenuating circumstance.

A cashless system is a more convenient way of payment in a transaction, but it shouldn’t be the only option.

Significantly, for teenagers who haven’t developed a mature notion of consumption yet, cash enables them to develop a healthy sensitivity to the true worth of money, the consequence of purchases, and the importance of making prudent consumption decisions.

In a sense, the weight of the cash in their hands can be a reminder of the value of money.

It is probably worthwhile revisiting some time-honored traditional precepts about spending within your means.

Similarly, upon reflection, I have to admit that there is something timelessly true about my mother’s admonition.

The author is a freelancer in Shanghai.

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