Visa makes an economic argument for embracing digital payments and reducing the use of cash in a new report released today (Oct. 11). The report estimates that electronic payments adoption could provide a net benefit of $470 billion (USD) per year across 100 cities.

The report also provides an “action plan” that includes recommendations – some of them payment facilitator-friendly – to help overcome obstacles to achieving this level of cashlessness.

The report, “Cashless Cities: Realizing the Benefits of Digital Payments,” shares the results of a study commissioned by Visa and conducted by Roubini ThoughtLab. It looks to quantify the impact on cities of a significant increase in the usage of electronic payment methods.

Instead of measuring the impact of getting rid of cash altogether, the study looks at an “achievable level of cashlessness.” Visa defines this as a city’s population embracing digital payments to the extent that the top 10% of its population does today.

The study argues that increased adoption of digital payments would have what it calls a “catalytic effect.”

“This study demonstrates the substantial upside for consumers, businesses and governments as cities move toward greater adoption of digital payments,” Ellen Richey, Visa’s vice chairman and chief risk officer, said in a press release.

“Societies that substitute digital payments for cash see benefits from greater economic growth, less crime, more jobs, higher wages, and increased worker productivity.”

Among the report’s suggestions for driving adoption of electronic payments is the promotion of a regulatory framework that helps encourage payments innovation. It also encourages cities to promote low-value transactions in places like parking meters.

The report also encourages digital payments providers to develop solutions that promote the acceptance of low-value transactions, along with better KYC processes that reduce the burden on customers while still complying with regulations.

The report breaks the benefits down into three groups – consumers, businesses and government.

It argues that consumers would benefit from reduced crime related to cash and save 3.2 billion hours conducting transactions. Today’s consumers spend on average 32 hours per year managing cash payments, the study said. It estimates that number could be reduced to 24 hours with increased digital payment adoption.

The benefit to businesses would come from reduced transaction handling costs and increased sales, the report said.

The benefit the report assigns to governments would come from greater administrative efficiency, economic growth, increased tax revenue – from both increased sales and the formalizing of transactions that have been conducted in cash, and even lower criminal justice costs from reduced cash-related crime.

The report ranks representative cities along a continuum from Cash Centric, including cities such as Cairo and Hanoi, to Digital Leader, which includes such cities as Sydney, Toronto and Copenhagen.