Jul 2019


Email this page    


Retail Stores Being Forced To Take Cash

Retail businesses that thought that they could get away from cash transactions and go cashless have to rethink that idea.  Cities and States are increasingly mandating that retail stores take cash.


Cities and states like San Francisco, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Massachusetts and New Jersey have enacted or in the process of enacting laws that would mandate that retail stores accept cash transactions.  Some have even imposed fines for refusing to take cash.


The arguments in favor of going cashless range from safety to saving time.  Retailers believe that not taking cash reduces the incentive for someone to attempt robbery.  The other argument is that it takes an average of two hours away from the business to run to the bank to make deposits.


Those in favor of cash transactions argue that cash less transactions discriminate against the poor, victims of domestic violence, the homeless and undocumented aliens.  Some people also prefer cash transactions because they don’t want to leave a digital trail of their movements and transactions.


A report by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) in 2017 estimated that 6.5 percent of American households were “unbanked”.  Also, 17 percent of African American households and 15 percent of Latino households had no bank account. 


Here is what the specific laws and ordinances in the respective cities and states have stipulated.


San Francisco:

San Francisco's legislation requires brick-and-mortar businesses to accept cash for goods and some services. Temporary pop-up stores and internet-only businesses such as ride-hailing companies would be exempt, as would food trucks, which say they lack the resources to handle cash.



New York City:

It shall be unlawful for a food-service establishment or a retail establishment, as policy, to refuse to accept payment in cash from consumers.   A food-service establishment or retail establishment violating this section is liable for a civil penalty of not more than $250 for the first violation and a civil penalty of not more than $500 for each succeeding violation.



A person selling or offering for sale consumer goods or services at retail is prohibited from refusing to accept cash as a form of payment to purchase goods or services.  A person selling or offering for sale goods or services at retail shall not:


a. Refuse to accept cash as a form of payment;


b. Post signs on the premises that cash payment is not accepted;


c. Charge a higher price to customers who pay cash than they would pay using any other form of payment.


           (2)  The following exemptions are allowed:


                      a. any telephone, mail, or internet transactions;


                      b. parking lots and parking garages;


                      c. transactions at wholesale clubs that sell consumer goods and services through a membership model;


                      d. transactions at retail stores selling consumer goods exclusively through a membership model that requires payment by means of an affiliated mobile device application;


                      e.  transactions for the rental of consumers goods, services, or accommodations for which posting of collateral or security is typically required;


                      f. consumer goods or services provided exclusively to employees and others authorized to be on the employer's premises.


Violations could result in a fine of $2000 or imprisonment.



Washington D.C.:

A retailer shall not:

a. Discriminate against cash as a form of payment for services purchased on the licensed premises;


b. Post signs on the licensed premises that cash payment is not accepted;


c. Charge different prices to customers depending on their payment method.


Violations could result in civil penalties under the Code of the District of Columbia Section 28-3904 [Unfair or deceptive trade practices].




Section 10A. No retail establishment offering goods and services for sale shall discriminate against a cash buyer by requiring the use of credit by a buyer in order to purchase such goods and services.  All such retail establishments must accept legal tender when offered as payment by the buyer.



New Jersey:

A1l person selling or offering for sale goods or services at retail 1[to] shall not1 require a buyer to pay using credit or to prohibit cash as payment in order to purchase the goods or services.  A person selling or offering for sale goods or services at retail shall accept legal tender when offered by the buyer as payment.


It does not apply to:

     (1)   any person selling goods or services at an airport, provided that at least two persons selling food at each terminal within the airport accept cash as payment;


     (2) any company in the business of renting motor vehicles, provided that the company accepts a cashier’s check or a certified check when offered by a buyer as payment3.


A person in violation of the law will be subject to a civil penalty of up to $2,500 for a first offense and up to $5,000 for a second offense.

San Francisco [Police Code-Acceptance of Cash by Brick-and-Mortar Businesses] [Enacted 2019]
NYC Bill Prohibiting retail establishments from refusing to accept payment in cash [Introduced Feb 2019]
Philadelphia Bill 180943 [Enacted]
Washington D.C. [Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2018] [Introduced 2018]
Massachusetts Section 10A [Enacted]
NJ Assemmbly No. 591 [Enacted]
FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households

By Bill Williams