SEOUL, April 21 (Xinhua) -- South Korea on Thursday started its first step towards achieving the goal of becoming a coinless society by 2020.
Under a new initiative launched by the Bank of Korea (BOK), customers at selected stores no longer need to carry away small changes after purchases. Instead, they can opt to deposit the money into their prepaid cards such as transportation cards.
If the trial succeeds, bank officials plan to allow change to be remitted into customers' bank accounts directly by next year.
The concept of a coinless society is gaining ground in the country. About two thirds of people surveyed by BOK said the don't carry coins anymore, with half of those polled supporting plans to get rid of coins.
While convenience is at the crux of the central bank's plan, there are other considerations. In 2016, the BOK spent about 47 million U.S. dollars in making coins.
"When we make a 10-won coins, it costs more than 10 won," Lee Hyo-chan, head of research at the Credit Finance Institute in Seoul, was quoted by the Financial Times as saying.
South Korea is one of the least cash-dependent nations in the world. Its rate of credit card ownership is among the highest and only about 20 percent of Korean payments are made with cash, according to the BOK.