Going traveling up to Tokyo on May 1st, so I pulled out 50,000 yen to pay for my time while I’m up there. (About $550 at current exchange rates, maybe.) The American cash was emergency cash that I pulled out of my bank account when someone started using a ghost version of my credit card and making fraudulent charges everywhere. I forgot to change it to yen when I arrived at the airport. (I was sleepy!) What I find interesting is that, in general, I rarely if ever carried the amounts of cash on me in America than I do in Japan. Japan is a decidedly cash-based economy. Which can be frustrating for things like splitting checks when one only has 10,000 yen bills, or when you need gas and the ATMs just closed (yes, ATMs close), or when you’re just plain out of money and none of the grocery stores take credit cards, so how the hey do you eat? (This has never actually happened to me.)
I think it’s especially interesting in view of an article I read in the NYT today (April 30) in which the writer described a shiny new dime-sized gadget for iPhones and iPads that scans credit cards without the need for a machine. If it catches on, then could it finally signal the end of cash at all in America? We’ll see.