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Cash is the most widely used product

It is estimated that between 500 and 700 billion notes are in circulation around the world.

According to the World Health Organisation96, in 2012, 89% of the world’s population had access to an improved drinking water source, compared with 76% in 1990; however, globally 1.8 billion people use a drinking water source that is contaminated leading to an estimated 500,000 deaths per year. As for electricity, the International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook97 shows that nearly 1.3 billion people are without access to electricity. Regarding information and communication technologies, the International Telecommunications Union98 estimates the penetration of fixed telephone subscriptions at 15.8 per 100 inhabitants and mobile-cellular subscriptions at 95.5% in 201499

The penetration of notes and coins is not measured, but it is likely that close to 100% of the population use banknotes at one stage or another. According to our estimates, there are between 500 and 700 billion notes in circulation around the world. This means that banknotes are probably the most-used product in the world. Depending on the conditions of circulation and the value of the banknote, its typical lifespan varies from one to five years. As a result, approximately 150 to 160 billion notes are printed every year to replace notes which are no longer fit for circulation and destroyed.

Some traditional societies continue to operate outside of a monetary system, but it appears that currency is used at least for transactions with the rest of the world. The Yucuna Indians in Colombia are an example. According to anthropologist Laurent Fontaine100, “Very rarely used in Yucuna traditional exchanges, the Colombian currency is found in certain of their market transactions with Whites.”

One person who would be expected not to use cash is Ajaypal Banga, the CEO of MasterCard. According to Fortune101, as he was concluding a speech to his leadership team on the downside of cash, he was challenged to show how much cash he carried. He opened his wallet and pulled out $2. The team laughed “What a cheap guy – he can’t even tip the bellboy.”