Philly, NJ inspire a national 'movement': Congressmen seek to ban cashless stores

Christian Hetrick, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Business News

"It's an issue of fairness for working families," said Cicilline spokesman Richard Luchette. "(Cicilline) had heard from constituents who ran into the problem, (a quarter of) people don't use credit cards, and many don't have bank accounts. This is about delivering results for working people."

Following the local laws banning cashless stores, web giant Amazon said it will take cash at its cashierless "Go" convenience stores. Salad chain Sweetgreen also announced it will take cash, reversing course after it stopped accepting paper bills in 2016.

Businesses have largely pushed back on the cashless bans, arguing store owners should have the choice on how to run their businesses. But some companies do support keeping cash king. Cardtronics, which bills itself as the world's largest ATM operator, lobbied for the Philadelphia and New Jersey laws, and backs the federal bills too.

"Let's not forget that many unbanked or underbanked Americans only have one option in their wallet and that's cash," Cardtronics spokesperson Crystal Wright said in a statement.

Americans are less reliant on paper bills and coins, according to a Pew Research Center survey released in December. The survey of 10,683 U.S. adults found that 29% said they made no purchases using cash during a typical week, up from 24% in 2015. Likewise, those who made all or almost all of their weekly purchases with cash dropped from 24% in 2015 to 18% today.

Massachusetts was the first state to pass a law requiring retailers to accept cash, in 1978.


Some economists have questioned the approach of banning cashless stores. Kenneth Rogoff, a Harvard economics professor and author of The Curse of Cash, has said the government should play a role in regulating the transition to a more cashless economy, but called the cash mandates "a very heavy-handed intervention."

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