Is cash king? New bill in Congress would require retailers to accept cash

Michael Finney Image
Friday, August 26, 2022
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A bill very similar to the San Francisco's "must accept cash" ordinance has been passed by the House and is being introduced in the Senate.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- During the pandemic, many retailers stopped taking cash -- and some of them still aren't. That has caused a backlash. Why? Well, it's in part because 10% of Americans say they do not have a checking or savings account, and even more lack a credit card.

The first time 7 On Your Side saw a problem making purchases for the unbanked was back in 2014 when Apple implemented a rule that new iPads had to be purchased with a credit card.

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Apple was using credit cards to identify buyers and limit iPad sales to two per person. That's when 7 On Your Side heard from Diane Campbell. She didn't have a credit card so she was turned away at the Palo Alto Apple store.

After we aired her concerns, Apple reversed its policy. Fast-forward about a decade, and the issue comes up again when restaurants like Sweetgreen posted "no cash" signs and some food trucks posted similar notices.

Vallie Brown was a San Francisco supervisor then, and introduced and helped pass an ordinance requiring most businesses to take cash. "I always say cash is king, and if you have cash, you should be able to go anywhere you want," she said.

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Now, a bill very similar to the San Francisco ordinance has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and introduced in the Senate.

Consumer Action's Linda Sherry says, "One of the main reasons that we support people's right to use cash and continue to use cash is privacy. Privacy, as you know, debit cards, credit cards, they amass a tremendous amount of data on people and that data is sold to data brokers, et cetera, et cetera, right down to the point of what you bought."

Sherry says her San Francisco-based organization has been working years to make the "legal" tender "required" tender.

"The nice thing about the Payment Choice Act," she says, "is it was a bipartisan effort, and it was from the very beginning, and it has had lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in the House voted to pass it."

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The bill passed by the House allows retailers to require credit or debit cards for purchases of more than $2,000. 7 On Your Side will keep track of this and report back.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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