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Philadelphia passes law banning completely cashless businesses

Published
today Mar 13, 2019
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Philadelphia is the first city in the United States to pass a law requiring most businesses to accept cash as a form of payment, effectively outlawing cashless businesses. 


Nearly 13 percent of Philadelphia's population falls under the category of unbanked – those with a low income who do not have access to a bank account, credit or debit card. - Instagram @visitphilly


The bill proposing the law was introduced by Philadelphia City Councilman William Greenlee last fall. In a taped interview with Yahoo Finance, the councilman explained that while paying with a credit or debit card is an obvious convenience to many, cash remains the most universally accessible form of payment.

In particular, Greenlee said he was concerned that cashless businesses excluded city residents who fall into what is known as the "unbanked" category, those with low-incomes who do not have bank accounts.

"There were a couple of places popping up [In Philadelphia's Center City district]...that did not take cash, you had to have a credit card," the councilman said in the interview. "Cash is the legal tender of the United States of America and everybody that can, can earn cash. Not everybody in America, and certainly in the city of Philadelphia, which unfortunately [has been] called the poorest big city in America...has the ability to use a credit card." 

Nearly 13 percent of Philadelphia's population falls under the category of unbanked, according to statistics from the Washington, D.C.-based non-profit, Prosperity Now. 

While the new law ensures that the city's brick-and-mortar businesses are open to the all of its residents, Greenlee said that tech companies, or companies like Amazon that lean into cashless payment methods, have little reason to be discouraged from entering the City of Brotherly Love. 

"I want to point out that this does not stop anybody from using a credit card or a business from accepting a credit card, it's just that regular retail businesses have to also accept cash," Greenlee told Yahoo Finance. "I just do not see that as unfair, it's something that businesses have been doing for centuries." 

Currently, Massachusetts is the only U.S. state to have a state-wide ban on completely cashless businesses. 

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