Here’s a little tidbit about modern society. There are businesses that won’t accept cash. I know that I’ve been in a few bars and neighborhood delis that don’t accept cards but someone who won’t accept cash??

… as digital technology advances — and with it, methods of payment — experts say cash seems likely over time to be used less as a way to pay for things. It could become second nature for new consumers to pay by credit card, debit card or smartphone — it already is for some — instead of cash.

And here are the reasons behind this trend:


It’s safer for employees because it reduces the chance of robbery or violent crime.


It’s smoother for customers, reducing lines and bottlenecks at the checkout.


It removes all the issues related to managing cash, such as counting it and having it transported to and from a bank, freeing up time for coaching employees.

But there are certainly reasons to raise an eyebrow. Does everyone have a debit card? A credit card? Access to electronic forms of payment even if they have a smart phone? The answer may be no and those likely to be disadvantaged are those who are already disadvantaged:

Although the number of retail shops and restaurants that are cashless currently is small, there’s already backlash by some local and state governments that claim it harms people who don’t have or can’t get credit.


Consumer access to credit varies, of course, and income, race and ethnicity can be factors, surveys by bank regulators and others indicate.  
Lower-income Americans are about four times as likely as higher-income Americans to say they make all or almost all of their purchases using cash, according to a survey last fall by the Pew Research Center.


Pew said adults with an annual household income of at least $75,000 were more than twice as likely as those earning less than $30,000 a year to say they don’t buy anything with cash in a typical week. The Pew survey said blacks are more likely than whites or Hispanics to rely on cash: 34% use cash for all or almost all of their purchases, compared with 15% of whites and 17% of Hispanics.


The Pew survey found 34% of adults younger than 50 make no purchases in a typical week using cash, compared with 23% of those 50 and older.


According to a survey published in October by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., in 2017, almost one in five U.S. households — 19.7% — had no mainstream general credit from card. In Wisconsin, the situation was better, at 15.2%.

So does a business discriminate against the poor or people of color by not accepting cash as tender for products and services? And is it intentional or simply collateral damage? And is this something that governments should remedy or need to remedy? I imagine there’s going to be court cases as cities and states pass legislation requiring brick and mortar stores to accept cash.

But I have one question…it may seem simple…but is it already illegal under federal laws or statutes…after all it says on our folding money and has for as long as I can remember: This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private!

Just thinking out loud!!

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3 Responses to For All Debts, Public and Private

  1. Dan says:

    From https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/faqs/Currency/Pages/legal-tender.aspx

    “Legal Tender Status

    I thought that United States currency was legal tender for all debts. Some businesses or governmental agencies say that they will only accept checks, money orders or credit cards as payment, and others will only accept currency notes in denominations of $20 or smaller. Isn’t this illegal?
    The pertinent portion of law that applies to your question is the Coinage Act of 1965, specifically Section 31 U.S.C. 5103, entitled “Legal tender,” which states: “United States coins and currency (including Federal reserve notes and circulating notes of Federal reserve banks and national banks) are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues.”

    This statute means that all United States money as identified above are a valid and legal offer of payment for debts when tendered to a creditor. There is, however, no Federal statute mandating that a private business, a person or an organization must accept currency or coins as for payment for goods and/or services. Private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether or not to accept cash unless there is a State law which says otherwise. For example, a bus line may prohibit payment of fares in pennies or dollar bills. In addition, movie theaters, convenience stores and gas stations may refuse to accept large denomination currency (usually notes above $20) as a matter of policy.”

    • Ed Heinzelman says:

      Thanks for spending the time on researching this and providing the clarification. Much appreciated.

    • Charles Kuehn says:

      Wonder how that squares with local clerk of courts’ usual refusal to accept payment of fines via large quantities of pennies, as is occasionally attempted by a disgruntled defendants who desire to make it as difficult as possible for them?

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