Backlash Against Cash-free Retailers Grows

Lawmakers, activists and consumers are protesting against the increased number of stores that do not accept cash.

April 23, 2019

NEW YORK – As cashless stores have increased in number, so have the complaints of discrimination from policymakers, activists and consumers alike, the Washington Post reports. Currently, no federal law exists that requires stores to accept cash.

Lawmakers worry the cash-free movement could move from stores and restaurants to other services, including those with low-income customers. Already, some stadiums and entertainment venues have gone nearly cashless.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation estimates that 6.5% of American households don’t have a bank account, while more than 24 million U.S. households are underbanked—meaning they might have a bank account, but frequently use other financial services, such as check cashers.

“To call this a trend is a bit of an exaggeration. There are a handful of retailers trying this in certain situations here and there, but it’s not something the average customer would expect to see at every store at the mall any time soon,” said J. Craig Shearman, a spokesman for the National Retail Federation.

Cash is still the form of payment in about 30% of all transactions, according to a 2018 study by the Federal Reserve. Fast-causal restaurants are the most likely to go cash-free, but some have backpedaled from the decision. For example, Shake Shack changed its mind about opening cashier-free locations that would have required card payments and instead will keep cashiers and add order/payment kiosks at more locations.

This month, Amazon Go announced it plans to start accepting cash. Earlier this year, New Jersey and Philadelphia prohibited cashless stores. Massachusetts has had a law on the books for years that requires retailers to allow customers to pay with cash. A New York City councilman introduced a similar bill last year, while San Francisco also is considering a cashless ban.