From heavy coins to a feathery Swish – the history of payments

It’s the year 2019 and by now we are all used to money being something we most often see as a number on a digital bank account. However, this has not always been the case. In this blog post we take a closer look at the history of payment, which began about 4500 years ago.

Money is, basically, just a way of thinking when exchanging goods. The first time it was mentioned in text was in 2500 BC. In Mesopotamia something new was invented: instead of just trading one good for another, they valued the item and payed in silver. The seller could then use the payment and trade it for something they actually wanted, fast and easy. The buyers began to carry rods of silver to the markets and cut of a piece that was equal to the item they wanted to buy. These cut of pieces became what today is known as coins, and the method started spreading all over the world.

The first banks were invented in the 1300s Italy, where rich families wanted to support the markets by setting up their own tables and let salesmen come to exchange money. The word “table” is “banco” in Italian, and when the idea of a place for exchanging and lending money was spread all over the world, that’s what they called it.

Thanks to a major crisis on the bank of Stockholm, the next big money revolution happened. In the 1600s the northern countries were lacking copper, and the swedes all came to Stockholm to collect the copper coins they had stored in the bank. Unfortunately, the bank had already leant away all the copper coins, and the crisis was a fact. To solve the problem the bank began to write credit bills – and so the first bills were out on the European market.

Shopping without cash became possible for the first time in the 1920s. The car owners in America wanted to go on long road trips without having to bring lots of extra money just in case they ran out of gas or had to stop at a workshop. The oil company General Petroleum saw this opportunity and created a payment card that could be used at all their gas stations. Many companies soon copied the idea and the payment card was invented.

Thirty years later the company Diners Club saw costumers urge to buy things fast and pay by the end of the month, and they launched the credit card. When the rest of the world’s merchants saw how this increased the amount of spontaneous shopping it wasn’t long before others followed.

When Swish was launched in 2012, we took the first step towards letting the swedes leave their wallets at home completely. 4500 years ago, your clothes would have dragged the ground if you had walked around with all your money in your pockets. Today all you need is a small rectangular digital device, and with Swish it only takes a second to transfer money from Ystad to Haparanda. All of a sudden, the big bags of heavy silver rods seem very far away.

What do you think will be the next big step in the history of payments?

Source: Världens historia