Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Barcode banknote printer

Publically available money printed for use
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When you want cash, you generally need to go to the ATM or a human bank teller. This is a problem if the banks are closed and the ATMs have run out of notes. It's not so much a problem if the banknote is simply a plain piece of paper with a barcode on it, like a barcode stamp. In that case, all you need to do is carry round a small thermal printer which produces banknotes with a particular number in the form of an encrypted barcode on it on a scrap of thermal paper such as a till or ATM receipt, along with a date and a reproduction of a banknote in some human-readable form. As you print it out, it sends a signal to the mint and your bank informing it that that banknote has been issued and by whom, identified biometrically as yourself. When it's spent, it goes into a till, is scanned, registers with the business's bank and is destroyed. There is a trail of transactions between the first person who "issued" it and the business.

After a day, the note is no longer valid and so can no longer be spent. This is to discourage counterfeiting.

So, the note can be issued by the first person, spent once (it may be very low denomination, even a penny) and act as cash, and cannot easily be counterfeited because it's traceable. It works better than chip and PIN for low denominations and is less open to fraud than a cheque.

I don't see this as a replacement for cash, just a way of getting round a situation where the ATM has run out or the banks are closed. Change can be given in ordinary coins and notes.

The thing is, i'm sure there's a massive flaw in this idea but i'm too tired to see what it is.
nineteenthly, Sep 13 2009

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       So, to summarize. An execution issue with the existing cash system is sidestepped by making an entirely new kind of money that's not anonymous, doesn't last, requires biometric ID in the absence of a guard (pretty much impossible to do reliably), requires each accepting unit to be online in real time, and requires its users to carry a frickin' printer.   

       No, I can't really see what's wrong with that.   

       I guess if your thermal printer runs out of paper, you could always carry a tiny, tiny RFID chip production line.</sarcasm>
jutta, Sep 13 2009

       //It works better than chip and PIN for low denominations// How exactly is this better? Surely a c&p transaction is the same but without the printing => scanning part of things?
pocmloc, Sep 13 2009

       Yes, this could work (just as print-it-yourself postage labels work).   

       But why?   

       There are already much more effective and secure ways of transferring money. Debit cards, credit cards, oyster cards are some that you may have heard of.   

       This seems like a very complicated way of implementing a debit card, only requiring entirely different hardware and software.
MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 13 2009

       I like [bigsleep]'s observation about "skinning" your money, but not much else about this, sorry.   

       (Is there an established syntax for possessive forms with halfbakery square bracket convention? I wasn't sure where to put the apostrophe.)
tatterdemalion, Sep 13 2009

       Thanks, [Jutta], i often get bogged down in details. I am talking about a very small printer, of the size you might find printing out receipts or prescription labels. I imagine a carriage about five centimetres wide.

They could indeed be printed out before departure, but not necessarily. Cellular telephone networks and wi-fi seem to provide the kind of service which is online in real time to me but maybe they don't. I'm open to enlightenment on that.

How about replacing biometric ID with a PIN then? Or a signature?

I like the personalisation thing. That could work.

Concerning the general impression i get that you think this is a solution without a problem, i'm not saying it's a permanent solution, more to do with being stuck without cash and not being able to use a debit card. Most retailers have a lower limit on debit cards. This may be a good thing for them, of course, as it encourages customers to spend more, but it also leads to people not buying things at all.

[Tatterdemalion] , you did what i would do: "]'s". Incidentally, since i complied with [po]'s request to increase the spacing between my paragraphs, i now put spaces around your username because putting "< br >" twice before it and punctuation after it makes it too long. Mine would probably do the same. Anyway, if you stuck the apostrophe inside the brackets you'd be calling someone their username plus a piece of punctuation.
nineteenthly, Sep 14 2009

       The thing I like about this is the reduction of paper into a number - it already exists in terms of computerised transactions - and it also already exists in terms of the serial numbers printed on existing paper currency - this does away with the cost of printing and maintaining "fancy" looking notes, instead relying solely on a number (albeit in bar-code form) to provide validation - not unlike any web, card, or cheque based transaction.   

       Calling up your bank, you might be issued with a series of numbers (cyclic redundancy checked, as well as having other mathematically derived authenticity codes embedded into the digits) - you'd not even need a printer, just writing the numbers onto the bottom of your shopping list should do the trick.   

       Biometrics probably wouldn't really be necessary, since the numbers themselves should be enough to provide some level of authenticity in their generation - perhaps a person's pin might be entered as well - to provide a final check (the value of the pin might be encoded deep within the numeric and used as an optional verification step) but that's getting us back to the use of plastic - which, barcodes aside is essentially an alternate use of numerics as vouching for your credit worthiness.   

       So while it's already kind of being done with credit/debit cards - there is something about paper money that people just like, and this idea sort of distils that physicality into what seems to be its most minimal form - a (presumably disposable) banknote with nothing on it except the serial number.
zen_tom, Sep 14 2009

       This is very similar to the credit vouchers that gaming (poker) machines print out.   

       I also agree with zen_tom that it is only the barcode/serial number that is the essential element of the idea. So, for example, the serial number could be credited/debited via your phone's bluetooth. In fact, I was going to post a 'bluetooth cash' idea a while ago until I realized that this idea is currently being researched.
xaviergisz, Sep 14 2009

       [xav] This idea is a 'bluetooth cash' idea, but the communications channel between my handheld computing device and the shop's computer, instead of being an easy-to-use, reliable and quick bluetooth protocol, has been replaced by printing the information onto a piece of paper, handing over the piece of paper and scanning the information in.
hippo, Sep 14 2009

       For me, the essence of the idea is to strip the concept of notes and coins to a minimum without making them insecure, hence the biometrics and destruction. Because of that, [zen_tom]'s (possessive after square bracket!) description is the closest in spirit to what i want. A toll-free number to the bank would be enough. They could even text you the numbers and you could pay by SMS.
nineteenthly, Sep 14 2009

       I like the idea of personalized money. But as far as the receiver is concerned, it's an IOU: if they could verify that your machine was a real one and not just a fake, then they could do a normal debit-transaction anyways.
FlyingToaster, Sep 14 2009

       I suppose the point is that I don't see a situation where I would want or need this. Can you explain an actual situation where this would be useful, given that I have credit and debit cards, a mobile phone, and assuming that I shop at a variety of places?
MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 14 2009

       I'm not aware of being able to pay for inexpensive items in shops with a debit card. In a shop i sometimes work at, the lower limit is four quid. At another i can think of, it's ten. This is because it costs money to make the transaction and that reduces profits.

Here's a hypothetical but quite probable situation. You arrive in the evening in a distant city and you need to eat, so you go to a takeaway without a chip and PIN machine and you have no cash. You'd be able to pay in this situation but not otherwise. Another one: you go to the corner shop to buy something small, say a box of matches, and you have no cash. Instead of going to the ATM, you can buy stuff immediately. Or, you live in a rural area and need to buy something from a village shop. Or, you're in the middle of nowhere and you need to buy a bus ticket.
nineteenthly, Sep 14 2009

       And a debit card is unusable because the vendors either set a lower limit or apply an extortionate fee? What makes you think they wouldn't do the same thing when you present your homemade currency?
Jim Bob of Merriam Park, Sep 14 2009

       It would completely cancel it out. However, they don't do this with ATMs, which are loss leaders for banks. If they did it for them, why not do it for small sums of money?

The currency is no more homemade than a cheque. It's technically legal to write a cheque on anything as well.
nineteenthly, Sep 14 2009

       //it costs money to make the transaction and that reduces profits//   

       but, in your system, the printed token // is scanned, registers with the business's bank// So, why is this going to be a free service to the business?   

       //a takeaway without a chip and PIN machine // but, presumably, having the necessary barcode scanner and comms link with the bank?   


       This is just another way to transfer money electronically, and it's not inherently simpler or cheaper than the many other current systems (in fact, it's inherently more expensive because the paper tokens are physical objects). If banks were to do this for businesses, they would be just as likely to charge as they do now for card services.   

       You might as well say "introduce another form of debit card which banks don't charge a fee for, so they can be used for small transactions in shops that don't have systems for the existing debit cards".
MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 14 2009

       Small payments can sometimes be made with mobile 'phones. It's not inherently more expensive because the money is not the paper, it's the number.

There may be another way of doing this which doesn't involve even electronic transfer. I'm not sure if it would be practical. I've already addressed the other issue. Cheques, for instance, are processed for less than card machine transactions, and ATMs are free at the point of use.
nineteenthly, Sep 14 2009

       Yes, but I still say that the premise of your idea is that it won't be charged for, and hence will be able to be used effectively for very small transactions and will be accepted widely. I just don't see it.
MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 14 2009

       "They don't do this with ATMs"—Actually, in the US, they frequently do charge you for issuing cash, if the ATM isn't owned by the same bank where you have your account. The last time I did it, the charge was $2.50.   

       "ATMs are loss leaders for banks"—Not true. ATMs cost less per transaction than a human teller. That's why banks encourage you to use them.   

       "It's technically legal to write a cheque on anything"—yes, but nobody has to accept it.
Jim Bob of Merriam Park, Sep 14 2009

       //I still say that the premise of your idea is that it won't be charged for, and hence will be able to be used effectively for very small transactions and will be accepted widely//   

       This is the appeal of e-cash. The idea of e-cash can be transferred directly from one person to another without needing to involve a middle-man (as with credit/debit cards) and hence no transaction fee (just like normal cash).   

       The cost of keeping physical currency in circulation is quite high (I can't find the exact cost but I recall it is in the tens of billions per year for the US). If the cost of physical currency was passed onto the consumer, and e-cash turned out to be a cheaper alternative, e-cash may one day supplant regular cash.
xaviergisz, Sep 15 2009


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