Philadelphia Bans Cashless Stores


Lawmakers in Philadelphia have passed a ban on cashless stores, making it the first major city in the U.S. to do so, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

The new law will take effect in July and would require most retail outlets to accept physical currency. New Jersey recently passed a similar law and New York City is on the path to doing so as well. Massachusetts already requires businesses to accept cash. 

The move could affect innovation for companies like Amazon and its cashless “Go” stores, which link to an Amazon account through a mobile device and automatically charges for purchases.

The politician who introduced the bill, Philadelphia City Councilman William Greenlee, said he thinks the general move toward a cashless city is discriminatory toward lower income individuals and other marginalized populations.

“Most of the people who don’t have credit tend to be lower income, minority, immigrants. It just seemed to me, if not intentional, at least a form of discrimination,” he said. Now stores will be required “to do what businesses have been doing since Ben Franklin was walking the streets of Philadelphia,” he said.

Supporters of the measure say it’s the right move for people who don’t have debit or credit cards, and for those who prefer to pay with currency for privacy reasons.

Businesses have a counter argument: they say going cashless improves efficiency and safety, taking away the need to count large amounts of cash or carry big envelopes of money to the bank at night.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta will be the first NFL stadium to go 100 percent cashless. However, for people who don’t have a debit card, there are kiosks around the arena that will transfer cash into a prepaid debit card, with no fee.

The Philadelphia measure does have some exceptions. The law doesn’t apply to garages or lots, Costco, rental-cars or hotels. The law also attempts to appease Amazon with a provision for Go stores by exempting “transactions at retail stores selling consumer goods exclusively through a membership model that requires payment by means of an affiliated mobile device application.”

Amazon said that won’t apply because a Prime membership isn’t required to shop at a Go store.