New Jersey is the latest state to try and curb the cashless business model. On Monday, governor Phil Murphy signed a new law that prohibits cash-free businesses. The law is effective immediately.
State legislators had passed a bill earlier this year introducing the ban. Rep. Paul D. Moriarty, one of the loudest supporters of the bill, noted that: “Many people do not have access to consumer credit, and any effort by retail establishments to ban the use of cash would be discriminatory towards those people.”
That bill now signed into law, New Jersey is now the second U.S. state to make cashless business illegal. (Massachusetts made a similar law effective back in 1978.) Under the new law, retail businesses as well as restaurants must accept cash, and anyone in violation will be fined up to $2,500. The law excludes entities like car rental companies and airport vendors.
New Jersey joins a growing number of places trying to ban cashless businesses. Last year, NYC councilmember Ritchie J. Torres introduced a bill that would require restaurants and retailers in NYC to accept cash. Should the bill pass, offenders would be fined $250 for a first offense and $500 for subsequent ones. Torres said the cashless model discriminates against the poor and underbanked population, and went as far as to add that “insidious racism” lies beneath the cashless model.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia, PA will ban cashless stores from the city with a law that goes into effect in July 2019. Notably, this affects Amazon’s plans for expanding its Amazon Go stores, which are all cashless. Amazon unsuccessfully sought exemption to the law.
Advocates of the cashless model cite safety (you can’t rob a store with no cash register), more accurate accounting, and faster checkout times. But were the model to become widespread, it would exclude the roughly 8.4 million unbanked households in the U.S. from shopping or eating at certain places.
Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. are also considering a ban on cashless businesses. This would also affect Amazon Go stores, in addition to chains like D.C.’s Sweetgreen chain and Wow Bao restaurants in Chicago, both of which are cashless. In New Jersey, State Senator Nellie Pou said in February that she had asked Amazon to come up with ideas for serving those without a bank account, but had not heard back.