The demise of cash is near. As consumers, though, we should hope that the end doesn’t arrive too soon.

It isn’t the pandemic that’s putting this popular means of payment out of existence. All that COVID-19 has done is to accelerate a trend that was already with us. When Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone in 2007, he began killing the need for banknotes. Autonomous cars, self-ordering refrigerators and our digital avatars in the metaverse will put the final nails in King Cash’s coffin.

COVID-19 shifted $5 trillion in global retail sales from offline to online. To the extent that a big chunk of this value was transacted in cash (47% in the euro area), the idea that central-bank-issued currency was a must for purchasing daily essentials took a knock. After an initial bump in precautionary cash hoarding, curbs on mobility and the fear of catching germs from handling paper money forced a change in habits.