The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated “cashless society” efforts around the globe. Understandably, consumers grew concerned over the possibility of contracting the virus by handling cash. Meanwhile, retailers had to scramble to continue operating even when they had to temporarily close brick-and-mortar stores. Many turned to curbside pickup, BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store), and touchless payments.
Regardless, scientists have not established a link between touching money and spreading the virus. And while the cashless movement has gained steam, the value of cash in circulation has continued to increase. At the same time that people were worrying about possible transmission through cash, many rushed to ATMs for withdrawals, according to the Financial Times. In times of emergency, consumers find security in having cash in hand.
Even before the pandemic, cashless payments were becoming more common while the value of cash in circulation kept increasing. The pandemic doesn’t appear to have changed either of these trends. Legal tender remains one of the preferred methods of payment, especially when users want anonymity, make a small purchase or leave a tip. The elderly prefer cash, and it is the only method of payment available to people who are unbanked or underbanked.
Despite the proliferation of cashless systems, cash isn’t going away. So retailers still need to accept cash if they are going to serve all customers. Certain jurisdictions, including Massachusetts, Philadelphia and San Francisco, have laws prohibiting merchants from refusing cash payments. Similar laws are under consideration in other states and cities. So for the foreseeable future, retailers should plan to continue accepting cash.