A recent article in Wired magazine spotlighting Canada’s Interac system declares that Canada will beat the United States to becoming a cashless society.

The article argues that the not-for-profit Interac, run by Canada’s major banks, is a major innovation that’s unknown in many countries, including the U.S., that makes the elimination of cash both desirable and affordable.

But conspiracy theorists have long argued that the elimination of cash in favour of digital currency will be a major step towards the creation of a police state, as every single monetary transaction will now be traceable.

Yet is that a major concern for consumers? Recent research suggests many people are already effectively living in a cashless world, choosing credit cards, bank cards and online shopping over the old dollar bill.

And, beyond Wired’s exultation of Interac, Canada has been undertaking a variety of initiatives that are bringing us closer to a cashless society.

Here’s a breakdown of the seven signs Canada is moving to a cashless society. (Text version below slideshow.)

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  • 7. Canada is tops for paying by card

    Nowhere do people pay with plastic more than in Canada. An <a href="http://gbm.rbs.com/docs/gbm/insight/gts/perspectives/WPR_2011.pdf" target="_hplink">RBS report from 2011</a> found that paying by plastic -- credit, debit and bank cards -- amounts to 40 per cent of transactions, on average, across world economies. But the rate in Canada was 68 per cent, making the country the world leader in plastic payment.

  • 6. We're getting rid of the penny

    Observers in the U.S. and elsewhere <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/30/canadian-penny-killed-us-penny-opponents_n_1391831.html" target="_hplink">declared Canada a trailblazer</a> when the Harper government announced in its budget this year that it's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/29/canadian-penny-killed_n_1389458.html" target="_hplink">eliminating the penny</a>. Canada isn't the first to do this -- Australia got rid of its penny decades ago, for instance, and various currencies around the world often eliminate their lowest denominations due to inflation. But the decision to kill the copper coin is nonetheless a sign that physical currency is less important to the economy than it used to be -- and central banks are beginning to notice the costs involved with it. Photo: Jeff Golby wears an oversized model of a pennyas he collects donations of pennies for local charities during Canada Day festivities in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday July 1, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

  • 5. Our dollar bills are going high-tech

    Even our paper money is turning plastic. The Bank of Canada <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/11/14/new-canadian-100-bill_n_1091884.html" target="_hplink">unveiled Canada's first plastic bill -- a new $100 -- last fall</a>. The $50 bill <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/26/canada-new-50-bill-plastic-money_n_1380695.html" target="_hplink">went plastic this past March</a>, and the $20 <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/02/new-20-bill-plastic_n_1471122.html" target="_hplink">followed quickly in May</a>. The plastic bills are meant to be more durable and include a variety of new security features, including a translucent strip. But they've already been through a few controversies: One involved the discovery that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/07/11/new-polymer-bills-heat_n_1666742.html" target="_hplink">the new plastic bills may melt in heat</a>; another involved a controversial decision by the BoC to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/20/asian-100-bill-carney_n_1810925.html" target="_hplink">eliminate an "Asian-looking" person from the original design of the $100 bill</a>. Photo: Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty and Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney show off the new $20 bank bill during a ceremony in Ottawa, ON Wednesday May 2, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)

  • 4. The Mint is going digital

    Perhaps the elimination of the penny made the Royal Canadian Mint realize that the age of physical coins may be coming to an end. The agency responsible for Canada's coins <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/12/mintchip-digital-penny-royal-canadian-min_n_1419813.html" target="_hplink">launched a new project this spring</a>, called "MintChip," in which it's researching the creation of a "digital coin" shoppers could use for transactions under $10. On its face, the idea is similar to BitCoin, the virtual currency, but when a national mint develops something like this, it's a clear sign we're into a new era when it comes to money. Photo: The Canadian Press

  • 3. Canadians are ready to go cashless (apparently)

    A study carried out by Leger Marketing for PayPal earlier this year found that <a href="http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/991907/more-than-70-per-cent-of-canadians-ready-to-go-cashless" target="_hplink">71 per cent of Canadians are comfortable with never having to use cash to make purchases</a>, up a stunning 44 percentage points from 2011, when only 27 per cent of Canadians said the same. We're going to go out on a limb and suggest this survey could be somewhat unreliable, but another survey, carried out by RBC this spring, found that <a href="http://www.rbc.com/newsroom/2012/0313-poll-cashless.html" target="_hplink">three-quarters of women and two-thirds of men typically carry less than $50 in their wallet</a> and rely on electronic transactions for purchases. Photo: The Canadian Press

  • 2. Interac

    As <em>Wired</em> <a href="http://www.wired.com/business/2012/08/canada-will-beat-us-to-cashless-economy/" target="_hplink">points out in this gushing article</a>, Canada's Interac system is a world-leading digital currency system. Nothing like it exists in the U.S., where you can pay by debit card at the cash register or pay user fees at a bank machine. While other countries have proprietary trading systems owned by banks, forcing withdrawal fees on customers and costs on retailers, the not-for-profit Interac costs so little it overtook cash as the preferred method of payment for Canadians all the way back in 2000. Photo: The Canadian Press

  • 1. Interac for the mobile era

    The Canadian Bankers association is <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/14/mobile-payment-canada-banks_n_1515720.html" target="_hplink">working on a unified, standardized system for smartphone payments in Canada</a> -- something that could well evolve into an "Interac for the smartphone age." Experts say that before smartphone payment can become standard, the phones themselves have to be equipped with Near Field Communication which allows phones to be swiped near readers to complete a transaction. Analysts say that technology is only a few years off. Photo: The Canadian Press

7. Canada is tops for paying by card
Nowhere do people pay with plastic more than in Canada. An RBS report from 2011 found that paying by plastic -- credit, debit and bank cards -- amounts to 40 per cent of transactions, on average, across world economies. But the rate in Canada was 68 per cent, making the country the world leader in plastic payment.

6. We’re getting rid of the penny
Observers in the U.S. and elsewhere declared Canada a trailblazer when the Harper government announced in its budget this year that it’s eliminating the penny. Canada isn’t the first to do this -- Australia got rid of its penny decades ago, for instance, and various currencies around the world often eliminate their lowest denominations due to inflation. But the decision to kill the copper coin is nonetheless a sign that physical currency is less important to the economy than it used to be -- and central banks are beginning to notice the costs involved with it.

5. Our dollar bills are going high-tech
Even our paper money is turning plastic. The Bank of Canada unveiled Canada’s first plastic bill -- a new $100 -- last fall. The $50 bill went plastic this past March, and the $20 followed quickly in May. The plastic bills are meant to be more durable and include a variety of new security features, including a translucent strip. But they’ve already been through a few controversies: One involved the discovery that the new plastic bills may melt in heat; another involved a controversial decision by the BoC to eliminate an “Asian-looking” person from the original design of the $100 bill.

4. The Mint is going digital
Perhaps the elimination of the penny made the Royal Canadian Mint realize that the age of physical coins may be coming to an end. The agency responsible for Canada’s coins launched a new project this spring, called “MintChip,” in which it’s researching the creation of a “digital coin” shoppers could use for transactions under $10. On its face, the idea is similar to BitCoin, the virtual currency, but when a national mint develops something like this, it’s a clear sign we’re into a new era when it comes to money.

3. Canadians are ready to go cashless (apparently)
A study carried out by Leger Marketing for PayPal earlier this year found that 71 per cent of Canadians are comfortable with never having to use cash to make purchases, up a stunning 44 percentage points from 2011, when only 27 per cent of Canadians said the same. We’re going to go out on a limb and suggest this survey could be somewhat unreliable, but another survey, carried out by RBC this spring, found that three-quarters of women and two-thirds of men typically carry less than $50 in their wallet and rely on electronic transactions for purchases.

2. Interac
As Wired points out in this gushing article, Canada’s Interac system is a world-leading digital currency system. Nothing like it exists in the U.S., where you can pay by debit card at the cash register or pay user fees at a bank machine. While other countries have proprietary trading systems owned by banks, forcing withdrawal fees on customers and costs on retailers, the not-for-profit Interac costs so little it overtook cash as the preferred method of payment for Canadians all the way back in 2000.

1. Interac for the mobile era
The Canadian Bankers association is working on a unified, standardized system for smartphone payments in Canada -- something that could well evolve into an “Interac for the smartphone age.” Experts say that before smartphone payment can become standard, the phones themselves have to be equipped with Near Field Communication which allows phones to be swiped near readers to complete a transaction. Analysts say that technology is only a few years off.

Also on HuffPost:

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  • Bank of Montreal Dollar - 1825

    Until the mid-19th century, Canada's future provinces used the "Canadian pound." Bit by bit, various jurisdictions began to switch to a metric system, and with it came the concept of the Canadian dollar. This Bank of Montreal-issued dollar bill is among the first bills called a dollar to have been printed.

  • Bank of Montreal Dollar - 1859

    Various banks printed their own currency until eventually the Bank of Montreal was charged with being the official issuer of the Canadian dollar, a practice that stayed in place until the Bank of Canada was created in the 1930s.

  • Bank of Toronto Dollar - 1859

    The Bank of Toronto (today known as TD Bank) was among many banks that issued Canadian dollars in the second half of the 19th century.

  • Ontario Bank Dollar - 1861

    Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Province of Canada Dollar - 1866

    The province of Canada comprised Ontario and Quebec and existed from 1841 to 1867. It issued its own currency. Image courtesy of Bank of Canada.

  • Dominion of Canada Dollar - 1870

    With confederation in 1867, the first truly national Canadian dollar came into being. Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Dominion of Canada Dollar - 1898

    Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Dominion of Canada Dollar - 1911

    Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Dominion of Canada Dollar - 1917

    Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Dominion of Canada Dollar - 1923

    Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Bank of Canada Dollar - 1935

    The Bank of Canada took over the issuance of currency from the Bank of Montreal when it was created in the 1930s. Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Bank of Canada Dollar - 1937

    Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Canada Dollar - 1954

    The 1954 dollar was the first to feature Queen Elizabeth II and the first to simply say "Canada" on it, rather than featuring the name of a bank, province or referring to the country as a "dominion."

  • Centennial Dollar - 1967

    Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • Canada Dollar - 1973

    This was the last paper dollar issued in Canada. It was in circulation until 1987, when the loonie replaced it. Image courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

  • The Loonie - 1987

    The loonie replaced the one-dollar bill in Canada in 1987. Image: CP

  • Canada 125 Loonie - 1992

    The Mint issued a special edition of the loonie in 1992 to commemorate the country's 125th birthday.

  • Vancouver Olympics Loonie - 2010

    An Inuit inukshuk graced the tail of this loonie issued in 2010 to coincide with the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

  • The Loonie - Anniversary Special - 2012

    The Royal Canadian Mint issued a special-edition version of the loonie in 2012 to commemorate the coin's 25th anniversary. Image: Royal Canadian Mint.


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  • The New $5 Bill

    Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bankofcanada/8693039417/sizes/c/in/photostream/" target="_blank">Bank Of Canada, Flickr</a>

  • The New $5 Bill

    From <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bankofcanada/8694157272/in/photostream" target="_blank">Bank Of Canada, Flickr</a>: "Robotics innovation is Canada’s ongoing contribution to the international space program and demonstrates our commitment to space exploration. The Canadian-built Mobile Servicing System is the sophisticated robotics suite that helped to assemble the International Space Station in orbit. This system consists of Canadarm2, Dextre and the Mobile Base. On board the space station—a permanent orbiting research laboratory—international partners conduct scientific experiments, many of which result in an enhanced quality of life on earth. Canada’s contribution to the space program evokes pride and sparks the imagination and curiosity of our future leaders in science and technology."

  • The New $10 Bill

    Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bankofcanada/8693039429/sizes/c/in/photostream/" target="_blank">Bank Of Canada, Flickr</a>

  • The New $10 Bill

    From <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bankofcanada/8693039423/in/photostream" target="_blank">Bank Of Canada, Flickr</a>: "The expansion of the railway in the 1880s was hailed as a remarkable feat of engineering for a young country with a varied and often treacherous terrain. At the time, the railway was the longest ever built, and its completion demonstrated Canada’s pioneering spirit by linking our eastern and western frontiers, connecting people, and facilitating the exchange of goods. Today, The Canadian train, winding its way through the Rockies showcases Canada’s natural beauty and symbolizes what we accomplished as a young nation."

  • The New $5 And $10 Bills

    Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney unveils the new polymer $5 and $10 bank notes during a press conference at the Bank of Canada in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

  • The New $5 And $10 Bills

    Finance Minister Jim Flaherty unveils the new polymer $5 and $10 bank notes during a press conference at the Bank of Canada in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

  • The New $10 Bill

    A new polymer $10 bank note is displayed during a press conference at the Bank of Canada in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

  • Astronaut Chris Hadfield Displays The New $5 Bill

    Astronaut Chris Hadfield poses for a photo with a new polymer $5 bank note on Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

  • The New $20 Bill

    Hand holding up the new polymer Canadian $20.00 bill.

  • The New $20 Bill

    Some new polymer twenty dollar bills, which is the most widely used bank note in the country, are pictured at Montreal on November 19, 2012.

  • The New $20 Bill

    The Bank of Canada introduced the plastic see-through $20 bill on May 2, 2012.

  • The New $50 Bill

    Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney holds a new $50 bill while standing in front of the Canadian Coast guard ship Amundsen Monday, March 26, 2012 in Quebec City. The Amundsen is displayed on the back of the new bank note made of polymer.

  • The New $100 Bill

    Bank of Canada Mark Carney shows off the bank's new circulating $100 bill, Canada's first polymer bank note, in Toronto on Monday Nov. 14, 2011.

  • The New $100 Bill

    The $100 bill was the first of Canada's paper denominations to go plastic and see-through.

  • Australia's polymer note

    An Australian 100 dollar polymer note is displayed above various international currencies. AFP PHOTO / Torsten BLACKWOOD

  • Australia's polymer note

    AFP PHOTO / Torsten BLACKWOOD

  • Mexico's polymer note

    A Mexican pesos note made out of polymer material. Alfredo Estrella/AFP/Getty Images

  • Mexico's polymer note

    Mexico City, MEXICO: A sample of the new 50 Mexican pesos' note made out of polymer material to hinder its forgery, 14 November, 2004 in Mexico City. AFP PHOTO/Alfredo ESTRELLA (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Next: Twitter Jokes About New Bills

  • Andrew Coyne

    Even that would be better. @InklessPW: Wells designs new bills. What'll we put on the 5? Oscar Peterson. The 10? Peterson. 20? Glenn Gould

  • Cory S.

    Wait so there's no more quote from the Hockey Sweater on the new $5 bills? #manifencours

  • Tabatha Southey

    New bills should be 5 pin bowling for the $5, a Robertson screwdriver for the $10, a Canadian flag, draped over a picnic bench on the backs.

  • LauraBeaulneStuebing

    Theory about the new $5 and $10 bills: They're ugly enough that we don't want to keep them in our wallets.

  • Paul Wells

    Paul Wells designs the new bills. "What'll we put on the 5?" "Oscar Peterson." "And on the 10?" "Oscar Peterson." "20?" "Glenn Gould."

  • Wesley Fok

    Was expecting the new $5/$10 bills to literally have pictures of poop on them, based on the outcry. Surprise: they look like money!

  • Patrick Meehan

    Q: You're the federal government, what do you put on the new 5$ and 10$ bills? A: Things you've cut funding to. http://t.co/jqT3BLmENc

  • Jason Rehel

    Everyone is pretty damn hung up on the AESTHETICS of the new $5 and $10 bills in Canada. Me? I'd like money that WORKS in vending machines

  • Brittlestar

    @Cmdr_Hadfield Dude, with all the stuff you’ve had up there (guitars, Easter eggs, new $5 bills), how BIG was your suitcase?