Picture this: You saved up your allowance. You finally have enough money to buy that toy or game you’ve been dreaming of. You go to the store and find the item. But when you get to the register to pay, you see a sign: “Hello! We’ve gone cashless.”
Situations like this may become common. More stores and restaurants have stopped taking cash as payment. Customers must pay with a credit card, a debit card, or a smartphone app. Some business owners say that going cashless has streamlined their business. Staff members don’t have to worry about having enough money in the register to make change. They no longer have to take money to the bank.
But a lot of people say cashless stores are unfair. Some even say they should be illegal.
More than 8 million households in the United States don’t have bank accounts. That’s according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. And many people, including kids, don’t meet the requirements for a credit card.
“A cashless economy is not an inclusive economy,” Tazra Mitchell told National Public Radio. She’s a policy director at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. That’s in Washington, D.C. Mitchell says cashless stores are “discriminating against people.” And even those who have debit and credit cards might prefer paying with cash.
“Cash is still very popular with consumers,” Nick Bourke told TIME for Kids. He works at the Pew Charitable Trusts. Lawmakers in some places have taken steps to ban cashless stores. New York City and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, have already passed laws on the issue. In San Francisco, California, a law banning cashless stores was passed in May. It says most stores must allow customers to pay with cash.
Derek Remski helped write the San Francisco law. He works for the city. “It’s really about equity,” Remski says. “It’s about understanding that not everyone has equal access to things.”