SKYWAY, Wash. - Nationwide, some businesses have considered getting away from accepting cash for various reasons, including for sanitary reasons and for safety and security.
However, a member of the King County Council believes that could limit fair access to goods and services and has decided to do something about the trend towards cashless businesses locally. Her new proposal would stop businesses in unincorporated King County from banning cash.
"I do like the cash option," said Jeanne Jimenez, a resident of Skyway.
Skyway shoppers like Jimenez say having cash as an option for payment is important.
"I just cannot imagine how I would feel if I didn’t have a debit card and needed to get a drink of water or something to eat, and then, I’m just denied because I don’t have $2.50 on the debit card," said Evana Enabulele, a Skyway shopper who supports the proposal.
Many are citing a need for teens who haven't built up credit, seniors and those who have obstacles to banking, to be able to pay with cash.
"In my age range I always used cash, but I regularly used a card, but there are a lot of people who don’t qualify for credit cards or credit, so I like the cash option," said Jimenez.
"I think it could be rough on the homeless. A lot of people have debit cards. Like, when I was younger, I didn't have credit cards. I always had cash, so it will always affect those people who are younger who want to buy stuff," said Kody Humen, a resident of Skyway.
Due to similar concerns, King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles proposed the legislation that would require businesses to make accommodations for cashless customers.
She says the King County measure wouldn't apply to businesses in cities like Seattle, only to those in unincorporated parts of the county.
"They are more likely to exist in convenience stores, small retail establishments and in food deserts," said Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, King County District 4.
The bill would also prevent businesses from adding extra fees for cash businesses would be allowed to require credit or debit cards for single transactions that are larger than $250.
"I was inspired to introduce this legislation from some personal experiences of my own, in finding that increasingly I have had to use my credit card to purchase anything retail," said Kohl-Welles.
Kohl-Welles says it's unclear how many businesses are cashless in unincorporated King County, but says that federal estimates from the 2021 FDIC Household survey show that for all of King County, 67,000 people could be un-banked and 380,000 could be under-banked in the county alone.
"They are not having fair access to purchasing products and services as other people are," said Kohl-Welles.
After the pandemic, Square commissioned third-party data from Wakefield Research and conducted a survey about a cashless future.
The report stated that of business owners who do think the US will become cashless, 22% predict it will happen in 10 years or fewer. Meantime, 65% of consumers think that cashless businesses are less inclusive than businesses that accept cash.
Also, 85% are likely to walk away from a business where they are unable to use their preferred method of payment.
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Humen believes a decision to go cashless might naturally keep some customers away, as well.
"There's going to be a lot of people boycotting businesses," he said.
The proposal will next be up for public comment through the Council Local Services Committee. That will likely be scheduled for sometime in February, according to Kohl-Welles.