Lawmakers consider ban on cashless businesses in NYC

CITY HALL - Cash is still king under a new proposal.

New York City may soon force cashless restaurants and retailers to accept cash. Councilmember Ritchie Torres has proposed a bill that would forbid businesses from accepting only credit and debit cards. Torres is also calling for the Consumer Affairs Department to issue violations to merchants who do not accept cash.

“I’m concerned that the movement toward a cashless business model, toward a credit card only policy, can have a discriminatory affect on our society,” said Torres. “Twenty five percent of New Yorkers are underbanked.”

Torres says forcing customers to pay with a card creates a barrier for low-income New Yorkers, or those who are undocumented or don’t have a permanent address, or even seniors who prefer paying by cash. He says the unbanked and underbanked disproportionately tend to be minority.

“Even though it seems harmless, a cashless marketplace could have the effect of excluding the most vulnerable members of our society,” said Torres.

With credit cards, debit cards, Google Pay and Apple Pay, just to name a few,- there’s little doubt we are moving towards a cashless society. The last several years has seen rise in cashless restaurants and retailers.

It’s a common feeling that there’s ease and convenience in not having to go to an ATM or to carry around cash in our purses and wallets. But Torres says credit card only is just not a viable option for some New Yorkers.

“There’s not only discrimination in effect but in some cases it could be intentional discrimination,” said Torres. “It could be a formula for filtering out undesirable customers.”

Torres says the bill is now waiting to be heard by the Consumer Affairs Committee. He’s hoping to take up a vote and get it passed sometime in the coming year.

“Paper money is the universal currency,” said Torres. “I find it wrong that a business could reject legal tender that has the full faith and credit of the United States government. It should be accepted as a legitimate mode of payment at every business in New York City.”