#NoCashTrip 2014: An Italian Journey through Digital Payments

3 guys, one car, no cash – just cards and NFC smartphones. This was a trip organised to see how far cashless payment has made it in Italy.

7 days, 2,500 km: Roma, Campobasso, Napoli, Ceglie Messapica, Bari, San Giovanni Rotondo, Teramo, Rimini, Treviso, Padova and Milano.

3 guys, one car, no cash – just cards and NFC smartphones. This was a ingenious trip organised to understand how far cashless payment has managed to penetrate the peninsula.

It’s well-known that Italy, along with Greece and Spain, is one the worst countries in Europe when it comes to digital payment adoption, and the idea for this trip came from a desire to find out what the situation is really like in the country.

Coming from Italy, I was really curious to know what was going on.

Had things changed since I lived there?

Back in Sant’Elpidio a Mare, I rarely used my bank cards, more often than not withdrawing and paying with cash. This was mainly because not all the shops had a POS (Point-of-Sale), and if they did, they usually didn’t allow card payments below a certain amount (even charging you more if you didn’t pay with cash!).

After the Italian government’s recent decree making it obilagtory for all businesses to have a POS, the situation should be different.

Watching the video that these 3 reporters made, I realised that the Italy I had left that was quite different. Well, there is probably still room for improvement (in several shops they couldn’t pay digitally), but the experiment shows that cashless payment is possible (even for as little as 50p!); you just have to be very very patient throughout your search for the right shop…

So, what’s taken Italy so long?

The problem is that many companies have to pay high transaction fees, and this is not conducive to a transition to digital. Not just that, but people still don’t understand that digital payment can help companies: it’s more secure (there is no risk of robbery with no cash around) and it can keep illegal transactions at bay. Italians definitely need to be more aware of the importance and the benefits of cashless.

When I first moved to London I discovered a huge difference between the two countries straight away. Here I can pay for almost everything by card: my food shopping, clothes, an espresso: it’s very rare that I find myself in a place that doesn’t let me pay using my card.. And this is incredibly handy for me in my everyday life!

I would love to go back to Italy for my holidays and find the same system. I would love to have no problems, just paying with my credit or debit cards. I would love to make a contactless payment in my hometown. And I would love a more efficient banking system that meets my needs and that makes my life easier. This is the direction in which Italy needs to go.

Innovation, technology, cashless: these are the future, and we should do our best to reach and embrace them.

So, well done to the guys from #NoCashTrip!