Most Retailers Still Prefer Cash

While trendy fast-casuals are making headlines with no-cash rules, the majority of merchants welcome dollars and cents.
May 10, 2017

NEW YORK CITY – With retailers like Sweetgreen moving to no-cash policies in favor of online and mobile ordering, some may be think that paying with actual dollars is on the way out. However, the reality is that most merchants do in fact favor cash payments, Bloomberg reports.

A November 2016 Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco survey found that the most frequently used method of payment is still physical currency. “Each company has its own business model,” said J. Craig Sherman, spokesman for the National Retail Federation. “But by and large, cash is king, and retailers prefer cash.”

Besides the fees associated with accepting plastic payment, foregoing cash could alienate customers who are underbanked, unbanked or sensitive about their privacy. “It's discriminatory against low-income people and people just starting out; not everyone who is unbanked is necessarily going to be poor their entire life,” said Jay Zagorsky, a professor of economics at Ohio State University. By not accepting cash, retailers seem to be saying: “Low-income unbanked people, you're really not welcome here,” he said.

Cashless retailers have been limited so far to small chains and independent locations. Domino’s toyed with the idea of nixing cash payments, but with 40% of its orders coming in over the phone—and most of those customers using cash to pay for their pizzas—the pizza chain opted not to. “One of the things we pride ourselves on is convenience, and until our culture makes cash obsolete, eliminating that method of payment for the millions of people who still use it could do more harm than good to our brand and our business,” said Tim McIntyre, Domino’s spokesperson.