Keeping cash king: Lawmakers fight to keep businesses from going ‘card-only’

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nexstar) — You want a cup of coffee, and as you pull out a few bucks to pay, the person behind the counter tells you: no cash — only cards or mobile payments.

Some lawmakers say that should never happen.

They want to stop retailers and consumers from racing towards a cashless society — a new bill would make it illegal for U.S. businesses to refuse cash payments for their goods or services.

New Jersey Democrat Donald Payne says that with more and more transactions happening with phones and cards, the good old-fashioned dollar is at risk.

“A legal dollar,” said Payne. “George Washington’s face on the dollar. And we are talking about doing away with that.”

Payne says his bill, the Payment Choice Act, would prohibit businesses from refusing cash payments.

But Usman Ahmed, with the payment service PayPal, said businesses should be allowed to streamline their business model to take advantage of the millions of customers who rely on their smartphones to make simple transactions.

Democrats, like Georgia Congressman David Scott, worry that eliminating cash will hurt underserved communities without the means to keep up with technology.

“There are 58 million unbanked and underbanked folks out there,” says Scott.

Scott says moving finances to digital platforms could also put people at risk of identity theft.

Ohio Republicans Warren Davidson and Anthony Gonzalez say Congress should be working to protect people’s privacy, not restricting technology.

“If we are in a world where we are going to try to stop all innovation, in advance because of a fear of something that may or may not happen, I think that is a dangerous place to be,” said Gonzalez.