CASHLESS SOCIETY MAKES NO CENTS
By Lee Cusack
With businesses across the state moving to a cashless model, a fully cashless society is easier to imagine, but a cashless society would be detrimental to the public.
In Massachusetts, retail stores by law must accept the legal tender, also known as dollars and cents. Despite this, some businesses and stores, such as the Red Sox have stopped accepting cash in favor of credit and debit cards and virtual payment programs like Apple Pay. This model of business is what stores in a cashless society would look like, and it’s not pretty.
As it is now, credit and debit cards are the payment method used for the majority of transactions. However, not every person in America has a credit or debit card, or even a checking account, and those that do still typically use cash. Ignoring the fact that it is illegal to do so, stores going cashless isolates people without cards or checking accounts, such as people who cannot afford to have them, and younger consumers who may not have or have access to these things.
According to a survey done in 2019 by the FDIC, about 5.4% of households in America, approximately 7.1 million people, are “unbanked”, meaning nobody in the household has a checking or savings account. The majority of these people either barely or do not have the minimum amount of money required to open one of these accounts. If society were to move to a cashless transaction system, these people would have no money with which to support their lives, unless the federal government were to reimburse them for the amount of cash they had prior to the change. However, it is incredibly difficult for cash to be tracked like the amount of money in a bank account can be. It would be nearly impossible for the government to reimburse every unbanked family with the correct amount of money.
In a cashless society, every transaction would be tracked in a similar manner to how debit and credit cards are tracked now. This means every small purchase, such as a snack at a convenience store, would be reported in your credit card statement. This is the same as today, however with small purchases like that, people usually use cash for convenience or to keep their transaction data manageable, and not crowded with small purchases such as those.
If somebody were in an abusive relationship, this tracking can be a medium for financial abuse. According to Francis Financial, abusers often get alerts from credit card companies of charges made to a card in order to track the whereabouts of the victim. If the abuser in that situation were in control of the finances for both parties, they could easily see every purchase made on the other person’s cards. Financial abuse is an issue today, but having to have every single purchase tracked would inhibit any ability for someone in an abusive relationship like that to make a purchase without their partner knowing.
Crimes such as identity theft, bank account hacking, and the theft of credit card and debit card information would be much more dangerous in a cashless society. As it is now, those crimes still occur, but if a person had all of their money stolen, they have cash with which to sustain themselves until their insurance claims get processed. In a cashless society however, people would have nothing to fall back on while their claims are getting processed.
Society going cashless may not be an imminent threat, however the dilemma has presented itself in our society, and it’s time for people to understand that it is a horrendous idea.