Philly Forces Stores To Accept Cash

Philly Forces Stores To Accept Cash

The press is filled with stories about the digital payment landscape and declarations that cash will soon be a relic of the past. In March of this year, the city of Philadelphia bucked this narrative by passing a bill that requires stores to give customers the option to pay cash. Massachusetts has forced businesses to accept cash since the late 70’s, but Philadelphia is the first city to take this step. Opposing the new law will cost stores up to $2,000 in fines.

The purpose of the legislation is to accommodate those who aren’t tech-savvy, don’t have credit, or are unbanked. Philadelphia has a poverty rate close to 26%, which is the highest among the ten largest cities in the U.S. Cashless stores argue that dealing with cash transactions is more time-consuming for their employees, who could be doing other things. Amazon responded to the new law—set to go in effect in July—by saying it would hinder their company’s plan to open Amazon Go stores in the city. In light of Philadelphia’s mandate that stores must accept cash, and the state of New Jersey recently following suit, let’s look at relevant statistics for cash and digital payments.


Digital payments are the future might be a popular mantra, but issuing a death notice for cash is a bit premature. Cash still accounts for approximately 30% of all consumer transactions. It jumps to 55% for purchases that are less than $10. Even with the continual rise in e-commerce, online sales—according to Internet Retailer’s analysis—accounted for 14.3% of the total sales in 2018. While it’s true that those with lower incomes use cash more than any other group, roughly 25% of U.S. households—across all income levels—use cash. In addition to these facts, U.S. currency in circulation has grown over the last couple of decades. When prominent leaders of digital payment companies are asked about cash, they admit that it will exist for some time to come, if not for the remainder of their lifetimes.

Digital Payments

According to the World Payments Report 2018 from Capgemini and BNP Paribas, developing markets account for a third of all non-cash transactions. By 2021, it’s projected that close to half of all non-cash transactions will come from developing markets, led by Emerging Asia. Growth in developing markets—particularly in India and China—has been driven by government efforts as well as by a strong adoption of mobile payments. The e-wallet market, led by Chinese companies Alipay and WeChat, is experiencing strong growth and now accounts for 9% of global digital transactions. The number of consumers worldwide who have used a digital wallet in 2019 has increased 30% from 2017, according to Braintree’s 2018 Global Payments Report. Non-cash transactions will continue to increase in the U.S. and in other mature markets as technology improves and trust in digital payment options grows. For some consumers, however, digital transactions will always carry a security and privacy risk that cash doesn’t.

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