By partnering convenience store chains, department stores and supermarkets nationwide, the BOK is encouraging consumers to use their change from purchases for electronic prepayments. Participating store operators include CU, 7-Eleven, With Me, E-mart and Lotte Mart.
For instance, the change that results from a purchase at a CU store can be transferred into T-money, Cashbee or Hana Money cards. Meanwhile, Lotte Mart will allow its customers to save the change in the form of L.Points. When the saved amount accumulates to a substantial level, consumers can retrieve it as cash.
Some stores will promote mobile barcodes that allow the change to be directly transferred to a bank account.
According to a report by BOK, there is a need for a coinless society in light of rapid development in financial technology and digital currencies. There are also rising expectations of safer and more efficient payment methods.
With a coinless society, the Korean economy would be able to save over 50 billion won ($43.9 million), the yearly cost spent on the manufacturing, distributing and managing of coins, the bank said.
Such expenses are considered a waste, according to a poll conducted by BOK. A survey on 2,500 adults showed that 62.2 percent did not own any coins. Almost half said that they would not use coins even if they received them as change.
Experts have also said that a coinless Korea is plausible, as the network for micropayments is well-developed in Korea. The rapid development of the financial system has also made it possible for most individuals to own a personal account.
However, there have been concerns regarding the project because consumers may still need coins at certain places, such as traditional stores and street vendors. Some have even argued that the absence of coins may lead to inflation, as producers may raise prices if they cannot give customers coins as change.
The BOK reassured consumers, saying, “We do not plan to eradicate coins but change so there is no need to worry about inflation.”
By Yim Ji-min (firstname.lastname@example.org)