Keep The Change

A critique of the ‘cashless payment system.’


Jackson Trauben

For many students, buying food from the food truck is the only time that they use cash “When I visit the food truck, I use cash because they won’t accept credit cards,” Ben Zakharov ’21 said.

Digital payment has become as easy as a tap, swipe, or click. More and more people are using credit cards, Apple Pay, and other mobile payment methods that seem to be leaving cash as a relic of the past. But in New York, cash won’t be disappearing yet. New York lawmakers have signed into effect a law that will result in a complete ban on cashless businesses in New York. Starting in the next nine months, it will become illegal for a restaurant, store, or business to limit customers to cashless payment.

With the rise of new technology, many countries around the world are adapting by going cashless. Several countries in Europe have significantly increased the use of credit cards as a primary payment method. In 2018, only 13% of people in Sweden reported using cash for purchases compared to 70% in the United States. While these trends have helped countries like Sweden in many ways, ditching cash has also posed significant problems.

These problems are the principal reasons that New York decided to ban cashless businesses. Specifically, legislators found that cashless policies neglect many older individuals who were not accustomed to new forms of technology and many lower income individuals who could not afford to turn to credit. After implementing the cashless policy, Sweden quickly found that it became a challenge to accommodate many citizens who could not adapt to the technologically advanced system.

“When businesses don’t accept cash, they are excluding many customers, especially those who don’t have a credit card,” Jordan Krevoy ’21 said. “For me, since I don’t have a credit card, it’s really hard when places become cashless.”

This new law left many businesses in New York changing their existing systems to avoid fines reaching $1500 per offense. The 75 locations in New York City of popular salad chain Sweetgreen will now be ditching their cashless policy after facing criticism. Sweetgreen was one of the first prominent businesses to stop accepting cash in 2016. “Ultimately, we have realized that while being cashless has advantages, today it is not the right solution to fulfill our mission,” Sweetgreen said in a statement.

In a similar change, Amazon has altered plans for their ultramodern ‘Go’ stores. The Amazon Go stores were originally designed to be completely automated, sensing customers purchases in real time as they pick up items and charging them once they leave via the Amazon Go app. In response to the new laws, Amazon plans to begin implementing cashiers who will accept cash at the New York City locations. Initially, Amazon reportedly argued against the change when a similar law was passed in Philadelphia.

New York is not the first state to pass the law against cashless businesses and it appears as if it will not be the last as many states continue to make similar changes. Already both New Jersey and San Francisco have implemented similar laws. Despite these plans, students at Bronx Science often rely on all the new technological trends in their everyday lives.

For most students, opting to use a credit or debit card is easier when making a purchase, “There’s no fumbling around with bills and coins, and you don’t have to collect change. It’s much faster and more efficient,” Ben Zakharov ’21 said. While many may picture the future and see cash becoming obsolete, visions of a cashless society seem to be on pause for now.

“When businesses don’t accept cash, they are excluding many customers, especially those who don’t have a credit card,” Jordan Krevoy ’21 said.