‘Smart Cash’: Technology can Enable Efficient Cash Payment on Public Transport

In the rush to digitalise payments systems, is there a risk that the public transport industry is leaving millions of people behind?

Cash users may be a minority, but they are many. Across Europe there are an estimated 30 million adults without access to a bank account, and the World Bank Findex places the EU unbanked population at around 5%.

In recent years we have seen many bus operators stop accepting cash – a worrying situation given that cash users are often less well off financially, without access to private cars, and therefore more likely to rely on public transport services.

Setting aside the societal concern, consider also the practicalities: with bus ridership in most regions still not back to pre-Covid levels, how can bus operators afford not to offer services to every possible passenger?

In the past many bus operators hoped to eliminate cash due to associated costs and logistical challenges, as well as the impact on boarding times. However, technology is now finding ways to address these issues, with smart cards that can be topped up with cash at Point of Sale locations.

We call this concept ‘Smart Cash’, because it offers all of the simplicity of cashless payment systems – while keeping cash payment as an option for everyone.

At Pcentra we firmly believe that this is how all public transport technology should be developed: the role of organisations like ours is to conceive and create solutions that serve passengers; never the other way round.

For too long, cash has been considered trash in the public transport industry. But society shouldn’t leave cash users behind – and bus operators can’t afford to.

In urban areas especially, the message is clear and very simple: it’s time to embrace Smart Cash.