Politics

Cashless businesses shut out poor people. A proposed New York City law would ban that

New York City Council Member Ritchie Torres

Nearly 7 percent of households don’t have a bank account, and 19 percent more are “underbanked.” These are not people who can walk into a cashless business and whip out a credit card or do Apple Pay. That makes the rise of cashless businesses a problem, a problem that New York City Council Member Ritchie Torres wants to address by requiring certain businesses in the city to accept cash, the New York Times’ Ginia Bellafante reported recently.

It’s not just about discrimination against poor people, either—this disproportionately affects people of color, because people without traditional bank accounts and credit cards tend to be nonwhite:

“It is bad enough that the poor are already so stigmatized, and now we are stigmatizing them even further for the way they consume goods and services,” Mr. Torres told me. “I talk a lot about effective discrimination. But this amounts to intentional discrimination, because these businesses that don’t accept cash know exactly who they are keeping out.”

For some of us, going cashless is a convenience. It’s important to remember who suffers when our convenience becomes an exclusionary way of doing business.


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