The word “cash” brings to mind bank notes and coins. But we also use the term to mean something other than legal tender – usually in a comparative context.
For instance, a car dealer will ask whether you’re financing a vehicle or paying with cash when “cash” means a check or bank transfer. When a financial advisor talks about cash vs. investments, “cash” refers to liquid funds in savings and checking accounts. But when cashiers at the point of sale ask if you’re paying with cash or credit, they’re talking about bills and coins.
However, even at the point of sale the meaning of cash is being redefined. A decision to go cashless at concession stands in Boston’s legendary Fenway Park has led to an interesting interpretation by the Commonwealth’s attorney general, Maura Healey. She decided it’s OK for the home of the Red Sox to have cashless concession stands because customers have the option of converting cash into pre-paid cards while at the park.
Why does it matter? Massachusetts has had a law since 1976 prohibiting merchants from refusing cash payments: "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.”