U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) have reintroduced the Payment Choice Act, a bill they first pushed forward about a year ago, in the hopes of giving customers the freedom to choose how they pay for goods and services.
“With the increased use of electronic and contactless methods of payment and many businesses refusing cash, consumers without access to financial services face a disproportionate burden,” the joint press release Thursday (June 23) said.
The bipartisan Payment Choice Act “would prohibit retail businesses from refusing to accept cash as a form of payment and charging a higher price for using cash than for other forms of payment,” according to the press release.
“While electronic payments are a convenient method for customers to pay for goods or services, completely refusing cash as a form of payment denies people, frequently in underserved populations, from having equal access to participate in our economy,” said Menendez in the joint press release.
“Our bipartisan, commonsense legislation would guarantee everyone who carries legal tender printed and backed by the U.S. Treasury, and especially those who are unbanked or underbanked, can continue to fully participate in the economy,” he said.
Cramer called the act of prohibiting cash payments “an act of discrimination against the millions of Americans who do not have bank accounts or prefer cash.”
“The Payment Choice Act protects people’s right to participate in the economy using their preferred form of payment,” he said. “If businesses unilaterally stop accepting cash, why do we print money? Is it really legal tender for all debts as it says?”
About 5.4% of U.S. households are unbanked, meaning they don’t have a checking or savings account. In comparison, 16% are underbanked, meaning they rely on money orders and other financial services to make transactions. Cash payments represent 19% of all payments in the U.S. economy.
If the bill is adopted, violators could be fined up to $2,500 for the first offense and $5,000 for the second. U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-New Jersey) introduced a similar bill in the House in 2020.