To make the exchange for goods and services easier, people have reinvented exchange modes in several ways over the past decades, moving from bartering to using coins and paper money, then plastic cards and recently digital payments.
Though Bangladesh has a long way to go to become a cashless and card-less society, the trend has caught on very strongly. During the covid-19 pandemic it has become vital to intensify cashless transaction.
It is now imperative for us to avoid touch as much as possible. In this situation, we have witnessed that cashless transaction has increased significantly worldwide, as well as in Bangladesh.
Thus, it is high time to push forward cashless banking, to maintain hygiene.
In Bangladesh, going cashless indicates the use of credit and debit cards, automated teller machines (ATM), Point of Sale (PoS), electronic payment using internet payment gateway, mobile wallet and use of Quick Response Code (QR).
There are around 16 million debit cards and 1.4 million credit cards in circulation.
Considering the potential of electronic mode of payment, for the first time in 2010, the central bank rolled out the Bangladesh Automated Cheque Processing System (BACPS), replacing the regional clearing houses, which were operated manually.
Under the system, banks are now settling inter-bank cheque within one working day instead of two to three days needed by the manual system.
In 2011, the central bank introduced the Bangladesh Electronic Fund Transfer Network that enables corporate entities to pay wages and salaries to their staff and, also allows them to make bulk payment.
People can also pay utility bills, loan installments and insurance premium through the platform.
In 2012, the central bank set up the National Payment Switch Bangladesh (NPSB) with a view to attaining interoperability among banks for card-based and online retail transactions.
At present, the NPSB is processing interbank ATMs, POSs and internet banking fund transfer (IBFT) transactions.
In a major move, the central bank launched the Real-time Gross Settlement System (RTGS) in 2015, facilitating safe, secured and efficient digital interbank payment system.
The system allows banks to transfer funds from one bank's account to that of another on real-time and gross basis.
Central bank has been very much instrumental in expanding electronic banking.
On the other hand, QR code usage has exploded over the past few years, as multitudes of companies have begun using them for everything, from advertising and promotions to merchandise tracking and coupons, and more.
Consumers are increasingly using QR codes to access media on the internet, download offers, find product information and more.
QR codes have also started to be used for payments, with customers making payments by scanning a QR code and having the amount transferred directly from their account to the merchant, without the need for a POS terminal.
A QR code is a two-dimensional code made up of black and white squares that can be read by smartphone cameras, point of sale (POS) terminals or other devices.
QR is very openly being using by Dutch-Bangla Bank's NexusPay and Bkash.
Some other banks are also introducing QR on a small scale.
QR is very easy to use and no additional expense is required. Both merchants and users are comfortable using it.
Even a small shopkeeper or tea stall owner can take payment through QR. QR is also leveraged for making payments to individual service providers in platforms such as Pathao and Uber.
Among other benefits, customers will only require a smartphone and will not need to keep cash or cards with them.
Now we need rigorous public awareness regarding the usage of QR, as part of e-commerce transaction.
A strong collaboration is required among banks, mobile operators and payment service providers to give momentum to the cashless and cardless movement.
Electronic payment mode has an important role to play in making the economy vibrant as it encourages people to engage in economic activities.
To keep people safe from the corona pandemic, all stakeholders should take appropriate measure to make the society cashless and cardless, then to a total e-commercialization.
The writer is a banker and economic analyst.