New Jersey has become the second state to ban “cashless” businesses. Proponents characterize it as an attempt to ensure that consumers without credit cards can participate in the economy.
It comes at a time when retailers such as Amazon are rolling out cashless stores that only accept credit cards in the name of efficiency.
“A lot of these people are the working poor who go to work every day, earn low wages, get their checks cashed at a check-cashing place, and need that cash to go buy groceries and food and other things,” said Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, D-Gloucester, who sponsored the bill.
Critics blasted the new law as an unnecessary onus on businesses they said should be allowed to decide which payment methods to accept.
Mike Wallace, vice president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, suggested that even customers without credit cards could patronize cashless businesses.
“Consumers at all income levels do have the ability to purchase prepaid credit cards or prepaid gift certificates, and would be able to utilize them at these cashless businesses,” Wallace said.
Moriarty rejected the idea that businesses would struggle to comply with the new rule.
“This isn’t a hardship on business at all. All they have to do is provide a way for people to pay cash,” he said. “That could be just one checkout counter, or it could be a machine as we see in some places where you feed the money in.”
The law, which Gov. Phil Murphy signed Tuesday and took effect immediately, prohibits businesses from refusing to accept cash as payment.
Moriarty said he wanted to protect low-income people who may have trouble getting credit cards as well as older people who may be uncomfortable using them.
Earlier this month, Philadelphia became the first major U.S. city to ban cashless stores.
Massachusetts, the only other state to prohibit the practice, instituted its ban in the late ‘70s.
Municipal parking garages and parking garages that accept only mobile payment are still permitted to be cashless.
Airport vendors can refuse cash as long as two other vendors in the terminal accept it, and car rental agencies can remain cashless if they take cashiers or certified checks as payment.