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There are millions of American households that are either unbanked or underbanked, meaning that they don’t have readily available access to financial institutions. Not having a bank account can seriously diminish a person’s ability to purchase the goods and services they need to survive. Given the alarming number of unbanked and underbanked people living in the United States, it comes to no surprise that there is a push to ensure the viability of making cash payments for goods and services. Now Congress is taking up the issue. 

In July, Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-NJ) introduced legislation that would protect U.S. cash as a form of payment for goods and services. The Payment Choice Act would make it illegal for retail businesses to reject cash payments.

In the legislation’s press release, Rep. Payne stated, “There are too many stores and businesses that want to reject American cash in favor of digital payments. But cash is the only option available for millions of Americans to pay for food, housing and other essentials.  In addition, I have serious concerns about the safety and privacy of the data that companies are collecting from consumers during routine purchases.  Besides, there are few things more American than cash.  A few years ago, we were fighting over who should be represented on our bills.  Now, it seems companies are more than ready to get rid of them entirely.” 

Payne has acknowledged that this issue largely affects the 55 million Americans who don’t have a bank account or a credit card. Many of these affected Americans are people of color, the elderly, or are disabled. Payne stated, “We can’t reject their needs because they don’t have a credit card or Apple Pay. I thought it was very important to defend these folks.”

Data Security

Payne has also identified privacy as being a concern when it comes to digital payments. Data collection is a $200 billion industry and more and more there is news of company data breaches in America and abroad, potentially revealing private information of millions of people. Cash payments, on the other hand, alleviates this risk.

Lastly, Payne noted that cash is often the only available form of payment during times of natural disaster. If we were to go to an entirely cashless society, how would Americans pay for much-needed supplies and services during times of crisis.

The Payment Choice Act has been co-sponsored by 39 additional Congressmembers, including both Democrats and Republicans.