This story is part of CNET’s ongoing Follow the Money series, which looks at how digital cash is changing the way we save, shop and work.
When Philadelphia City Councilman Bill Greenlee heard that a coffee shop and a salad restaurant right near City Hall didn’t accept cash, he thought it sounded unfair.
“I can get my coffee and muffin, but the person behind me who has the monetary unit of the United States of America, that’s been accepted here in Philadelphia since Ben Franklin, can’t?” he said in an interview. “It just seemed wrong.”
So last October, Greenlee (who uses both card and cash) co-sponsored a bill. In March, Mayor Jim Kenney signed it into law.
Cashless stores and events are just starting to crop up in the retail landscape with much hoopla — consider the splashy launches of— but they’re already running into hurdles from legislators in cities and states around the country. These governments are concerned that what some see as technological innovation could actually widen societal gaps between those who have access to financial services and those who don’t.
Cash’s demise at the hands of cards, e-commerce and mobile payments has been heralded for decades as a faster and more secure way to pay for stuff. After all, you can’t lose a digital wallet the same way you can lose a real one. Yet cash is still the most frequently used form of payments (representing 30% of all transactions), particularly for smaller transactions (where it’s 55%), according to the Federal Reserve.
While you might opt to pay for a bottle of water with card instead of cash, there’s still a swath of the population that doesn’t have that choice. Roughly 8.4 million households in the US were considered “unbanked” in 2017, according to the FDIC. That means no one in those households had access to a checking or savings account.
Check out Boggart Blog and The Daily Stirrer’s omnibus page on the Cashless Society