As more and more stores reopen from the COVID-19 lockdown customers will notice a lot of changes, one of which is that more and more merchants are going cashless.
One example is activewear retailer Lululemon who stated on the FAQ page of their website that: “We won’t be accepting cash payments for 30 days after reopen, and we’ll reassess after that time. We prefer contactless tap payments like credit and debit cards or ApplePay. Check in with your financial institution so your digital wallets are ready to go!”
The CDC has issued guidelines for food industry businesses, like to avoid touching your face after handling cash or merchandise that could have been handled by someone with COVID-19. Some public health experts have said they believe the virus could be spread by cash touched by infected people, which has prompted the shift by merchants to use cashless transactions.
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, merchants not accepting cash were the subject of scorn. In fact, in January of this year New York City joined Philadeplhia, San Francisco, and the State of New Jersey in passing legislation that prohibits merchants from not accepting cash.
Roughly 6.5% of American households, or about 14.1 million people, are “unbanked,” meaning that they don’t have a checking or savings account and would not be able to make a purchase at stores that don’t accept cash. Merchants are going to be walking a fine line between offering services for the “unbanked” and implementing social distancing measures as the economy reopens. The convenience of digital wallets and electronic payment methods is now being bolstered by the argument that they are safer modalities than paying with cash. That may be true to a point, but the COVID-19 pandemic should not be seen as a clarion for the end of money in our society as we know it.