I have seen the future, and it’s bloody confusing.

The photo shows a (my) traditional wallet to the right, and three additional ones I acquired in the past 12 months or so.

The top two are transport cards. I had to buy the first one because it was the only one way at the time to pay for the Rotterdam tram. It is the infamous OV Chipkaart, and it cost 10 euro (that is excluding the actual credit), even though making the card can hardly have cost more than 10 cents. You need to keep it topped up with at least four euros or else it becomes worthless, and you cannot sell it back to the issuer.

The middle card is exactly the same thing, except that it is the only card that will give me a discount on (some) train trips. It completely obviates the top card. The train company expects you to have 10 euro on it before they let you pay for a trip.

The bottom card is a regular bank card, but it also has a built in electronic wallet that provides for the only way to pay for lunch at my current customer.

The upshot is that I walk around with four wallets containing about 100 euros in total where I used to walk around with about 20 in cash. The chances of me losing money by losing a wallet has grown fourfold, and I now need to know of at least three different ways of paying for products and services, where one used to be enough.

Perhaps I am just a grumpy old luddite. My brother loves his electronic wallets, and has foregone cash completely. He keeps his cards in a little holder built for the purpose, and likes the elegance of living in the future.

(Should any non-Dutch people read this, I should point out that we also pay with cards that are not wallets. The bank card pictured at the bottom can be used for this purpose at most stores in the Netherlands; it directly transfers money from your bank account to the seller’s.)

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