The use of credit cards, debit cards, PayPal and Venmo is increasing and has become a popular way to purchase items, as well as to give and receive money. The issue is that all are electronic means of payment, encouraging people and businesses to eliminate cash payment entirely. At the University of Connecticut, most dining services such as dining halls and “Earth, Wok & Fire,” as well as food trucks and cafés do not accept cash. Card payments offer quick convenience for consumers, requiring just the swipe of a card for payment without having to count how much is needed is both time-saving and practical. Not to mention it is much more sanitary, as cash is in constant circulation. Despite this, the elimination of cash altogether will pose a huge problem, especially for lower-income individuals.
John Bellaire from “Brown Political View” warns that people facing housing insecurity are and will continue to receive less cash transfers since “…one in two Americans hold zero cash on them half of the time they leave their homes.” Individuals who are unhoused use the money generously donated by people to buy food and help them while they find employment. If more people continue to adopt the electronic forms of payment as more businesses utilize these methods of payment, unhoused people will be struggling more than ever. Even if someone wanted to Venmo them money, those who are unhoused need to open a bank account stating an address they do not have, making it virtually impossible for that monetary transfer to assist them.
But it is not just those that are struggling financially who are and will continue to be affected. Everyone using Zelle, PayPal and credit cards are constantly giving up their privacy, perhaps unknowingly as well.
People purchasing goods or donating money using cash have the luxury of privacy – only they truly know where all of their spendings are going. However, with cards, banks can track every single transaction done, which is good for tracking fraud but not ideal for the average consumer knowing they are constantly surveilled. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada states that with electronic payments it is a more “…complex exchange of purchase information and other personal information. Purchases can be associated with other information, such as your purchasing habits, your location, your social media connections, and much more, raising privacy risks relative to cash only transactions.” The fact that banks and payment processing companies can hold so much power with our information is frightening. They can manipulate and use that information however they want.
Of course, banks probably wouldn’t purposefully leak private information or abuse it in any way. Their main motive is to track people’s purchases using digital money to prevent fraud. It can also be beneficial for businesses to accept digital money to prevent losing profit by accepting counterfeit cash. However, consumer privacy being quashed still poses a problem. For example, the “terms and conditions” attached to opening a bank account or credit card are rarely read by individuals. When opening a Venmo Visa Signature Card, one of the conditions people agree to is “ by making a purchase or requesting a cash advance, you authorize us to share your personal information (including email address)…” This is just one of the many things people agree to, perhaps without even noticing. Even in the terms, Venmo is specifically stating that your personal information can be shared to third parties. Sure, those working in the banks and credit card companies may use a person’s information only in cases of suspicious activities, but that does not mean everyone holding that person’s information – such as merchants – will.
There are both benefits and drawbacks to both common forms of payment. That being said, all businesses should accept both forms of payment. This way, people can use what they feel comfortable with and will still be able to donate physical dollars to those in need. Cash must not disappear.