Senators Push For Bill That Would Force Retailers To Accept Cash


If two U.S. senators get their way, cash will be king.

Sens. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) and Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota) have introduced a bipartisan measure that would forbid merchants from declining cash payments from customers as businesses promote contactless digital payments amid the COVID-19 health crisis, CNBC reported.

The Payment Choice Act is aimed at businesses that refuse to accept cash as payment or retailers that charge a fee for cash transactions, the network reported.

“While I fully understand that businesses have expanded their contactless payment options during the pandemic, refusing cash discriminates against certain populations and denies people equal access to the same goods or services,” said Menendez in a statement.

If the bill is adopted, violators could be fined up to $2,500 for the first offense and $5,000 for the second. A similar bill was introduced in the House by U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr., (D-New Jersey) last year.

The Consumer Choice in Payment Coalition, comprised of numerous businesses and consumer representatives, is working to protect the use of cash against the surge of digital payments.

“We’re most encouraged to see such widespread bipartisan support for the Payne bill,” Bruce Renard, executive director of the National ATM Council, a coalition member, said in May. “This law will establish sound and consistent guidelines to help preserve a nationwide option for consumers to pay with cash.”

State laws to protect cash have already been passed in Massachusetts, New Jersey,  New York City, San Francisco and Philadelphia.

Last month, Brett Narlinger, senior vice president at payments provider Blackhawk Network, told PYMNTS some consumers who don’t use banks find cash the easiest way to handle transactions. He noted some younger consumers use cash because they want to and are looking for wider ways to do so.

In the latest Next-Gen Debit Tracker, PYMNTS reported consumers who are seeking to avoid exposing themselves or others to COVID-19 are turning to eCommerce where possible and are demanding touch-free ways to pay when they have to visit stores in-person.

The June report found 40 percent of U.S. debit payments were contactless, up from 27 percent before the pandemic.