In the late 2020's, the United States consumer economy has evolved from a cash-dependent society to one almost completely based on transactions of credit. The physical dollar is still exchanged, especially among the poorer strata of society, but most transactions are accomplished with some form of electronic funds transfer. Physical currency has evolved into a wired currency as well, and multiple forms of dollar-based currency have gained acceptance in the form of corporate scrip. The reliance on electronic means of transferring and accumulating currency has led to a new twist on identity theft, the credit assassination.

Cash

The exchange of paper money for goods and services has been on a steady decline since the early '90's. By early 2020, cash was used in less than 4% of all transactions within the United States. As part of the U.S. Treasury's attempts to curtail counterfeiting operations, they began work on a new type of paper bill, called the Smart Bill. While previous series of bills had contained RFID strips for authentication purposes, the 2023 series of bills was the first to contain writable storage space along with readable information. For the first time, cash could be traced, with each bill linked to the purchaser of the bill through ATM and bank teller records. Point-of-sale systems were upgraded to register the transfer of the bills from one customer to the establishment.

The tracing program was initially a classified program of the Department of Homeland Security, ostensibly used to track the financial trail of suspected funders of terrorist activity. A group of anonymous hackers known as the Epic F@il Legion discovered the tracing properties of the bills , exposing the secret through the GlobalNet. The Treasury Secretary initially denied the program's existence, but within a year, the details were confirmed by the department. Exchange programs were instituted at all banks, offering to exchange the old bills with the new on a one-for-one basis. Response was incredibly low from the beginning, and has remained so. The Treasury Department has instituted a number of incentive programs to collect and destroy all of the untraceable currency, with little success.

Many of those who still use cash, such as low-wage workers, immigrants, criminals and black marketers prefer pre-trace currency. Dubbed “Five-Year,” the bills are hoarded. Those who wish to live “off the grid” are forced to use the slowly dwindling supply of Five-Year. A thriving industry of cash vendors has sprung up in most major metropolitan areas. Often found in convenience stores and high-interest, no credit-check loan establishments, the cash vendors will exchange all sorts of currency, including corporate scrip and new bills for the equivalent value in Five-Year, charging only a nominal percentage as a fee. The official government exchange rate for Five-Year is two old bills for one new bill, and it continues to go down as the government attempts to discourage its use.

Credit

The modern economy of the United States is built on electronic funds transfer. Most currency is called “credit” even if interest is not charged. The most important financial asset a consumer can possess is their credit score. No longer used just to determine lending worthiness, credit scores now determine employment , membership and service eligibility. Though the actual credit scores are kept anonymous, credit reporting agencies are used by businesses to refuse service to anyone whose credit score does not match the businesses minimum credit threshold.

Credcrashing

Due to the increasing reliance on credit, a nasty side-effect has been the emergence of “credcrashing” otherwise known as “credit assassin.” A crasher assassinates his target by destroying his credit score, severing all ties the target has with their funds. The target is left bereft of credit, their bank accounts drained, bills unpaid and overdue. Some severe cases have resulted in the target being arrested on charges of credit fraud for their past credit transactions, even though those transactions were legally executed at the time. Like identity theft taken to the extreme, credit assassination can be corrected, but often not without the help of the very same credit reporting agencies that allowed the crashing to take place. The GlobalNet is rife with unsubstantiated rumors that many assassinations are ordered by corporations, either as attempts to sabotage competitors through their employees, or as a recruiting tool. The corporations assassinate the credit of a competitor's employee, then offer the target a job at reduced pay when the recruit has no other options. To this date, no corporation has been charged with such a crime. None will admit to using the practice, except in cases where debt collection has repeatedly failed, which is legal in extreme cases.

Corporate Scrip

The Corporate Currency Exchange Act of 2023 instituted another form of currency in the United States, known as corporate scrip. Issued by corporations, this scrip is equivalent to money issued by the Treasury, with a variable exchange rate pegged against the dollar based upon that particular scrip's overall activity. Scrips with brisk trade can actually exchange at a greater than one-to-one ratio with U.S. Dollars, while less popular scrips can be practically worthless in dollar terms. All corporations will take their own scrip at a one-to-one ratio for their goods and services, while using the official exchange rate for other scrips.

The stock price of corporations can also affect their scrip exchange rate. Corporations with low consumer confidence find their scrips being traded in for other currency or not being used at all, while corporations with high consumer confidence will find their scrip frequently used. As a result, stock prices and exchange rates generally move in similar proportions.

Many corporate employees are paid in scrip. Corporations find this lowers their overhead and increases revenue, as those employees tend to purchase goods and services from vendors also owned by the scrip's issuer due to the favorable exchange rate. Employees are urged to “keep it in the corporate family.”