Are you still using cash most every day? If so, you may soon find yourself in a minority.
More and more businesses are refusing cash and for good reasons. Keeping cash in a store register creates a lot of expense and wasted effort for merchants: employee training, banking fees, armored-truck pickups, and the occasional robbery. For these reasons and more, a few merchants no longer accept cash and that trend is increasing.
For individuals, the danger of a robbery also exists but probably the more common reason for not carrying cash is simple convenience. Most everyone these days carries a credit or debit card. Handing a piece of plastic to a retail clerk is easier and safer than paying with cash and then dealing with the change returned from a cash payment. For those of us who travel internationally, the use of a debit or credit card is not only convenient; it also saves a lot of money in foreign exchange fees.
If the charge is for a business expense, finding records in the credit card or debit card’s monthly statements is much, much easier than saving and later dealing with all those small pieces of paper from cash register receipts.
The use of plastic does have drawbacks, however. Merchants will quickly mention the fact that the credit card companies all charge a 2% to 3% fee to the merchant every time a credit card or debit card is used. Even so, that is usually cheaper than the costs of using cash as mentioned earlier: employee training, banking fees, armored-truck pickups, and the occasional robbery.
For individuals, using a plastic card means a loss of privacy. Cash is anonymous, credit and debit cards are not. When you use a card instead of cash, your movements and purchases are easily traceable by government agencies or by credit card companies who often sell your personal information to anyone who wants it, such as to Facebook.
Another drawback is the obvious dependency on electricity and on functional computer networks. If the power goes off, the merchant cannot accept a payment by credit or debit card. Then again, that may be a minor problem anyway as the lack of power and networking creates numerous other problems besides the difficulties with payments.
First, power and computer outages do happen but not frequently for most locations. Any merchant in a location where power or computer outages are frequent probably has already created a procedure to handle cash during outages. But for retailers in locations with reliable electricity and network services, the merchants may be wholly dependent upon their computer support systems. There may not be a manual backup procedure in place.
The small corner variety store probably can accept cash during a power outage but larger retailers, gas stations, and many others cannot. Without power, your local gas station isn’t pumping any gas anyway. Grocers cannot operate their cash registers and inventory management systems without electricity and probably cannot even open their cash drawers to accept your payment and then return change to you. Dozens of other medium to large retailers also cannot accept cash and make change for a variety of reasons without electricity and a functional internet connection.
In one blizzard that caused power outages last winter in the northeastern states, one complaint I heard was that snow plow drivers, police, and other emergency personnel couldn’t even purchase a hot cup of coffee at Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks during their long work shifts.
Like it or not, our world has become dependent on many utilities, including power generation, water, and internet connectivity. Debit cards and credit cards are accepted almost everywhere. There are very, very few places today that do not accept plastic.
So why are you still carrying cash? What precautions have you adopted to stop theft?