If you’ve tried to spend actual paper money at your local lunch spot or salad shop lately, you may already know there’s a war on cash. Retail establishments—particularly in trendy neighborhoods in rapidly gentrifying cities like New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.—are increasingly telling customers that they only accept credit or debit card payments. Dead presidents need not apply.
Cash-free eateries like Sweetgreen are leading the trend, saying it makes the transactions process smoother and more convenient overall. Some have also argued that having no cash on hand makes businesses less of a target for would-be thieves.
But pro-cash advocates are fighting back in a growing number of cities. Last week, the Philadelphia city council passed legislation that would require local retailers to accept physical cash as a form of payment. The bill is now awaiting the signature—or veto—of the city’s mayor, Jim Kenney, according to the Philadelphia Tribune. But signing it will risk alienating Amazon, which is reportedly looking to bring one of its cashier-free stores to the city.
Critics of cash-free businesses argue that they discriminate against lower-income patrons, especially those without a bank account or people who live paycheck to paycheck. In 2017, the FDIC estimated that roughly 8.4 million U.S. households were unbanked, and an additional 24 million were underbanked. Privacy is another good argument in favor of the almighty dollar bill, as paying with cash is the easiest way to ensure that your transactions aren’t tracked.
Philadelphia is hardly alone. I’ve rounded up the cities (and one state) that are weighing bans on cashless retail establishments below:
- Philadelphia: A bill passed city council this week and is now on the mayor’s desk. More info here.
- New Jersey: Both houses of the state legislature passed a bill this month; it’s now on the governor’s desk. More info here.
- Chicago: Lawmakers have been weighing cash-free retail restrictions since at least 2017. More info here.
- San Francisco: This month, a city lawmaker proposed an ordinance that would require businesses to take cash. More info here.
- New York City: A city council member who represents parts of the Bronx proposed a bill in November that would force retailers to take cash. More info here.
- Washington, D.C.: Last summer, a council member introduced a bill that would require food retailers like bars and restaurants to accept cash. More info here.