Should Business Owners Accept Cash During a Health Crisis?

accepting cash in a health crisis
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Electronic payment junkies and “Cash is King” buyers alike have strong feelings about how Covid-19 will affect the future of payments. There are undoubtedly some benefits of running a business with a paper money purchase option. You can enjoy things like immediate payments and zero worrying about a customer disputing a charge (resulting in a chargeback dispute). However, there’s this pesky little factor that makes considering a cashless business a very complicated topic; customer satisfaction. Will your patrons be happier with more payment options, or with a cleaner checkout process? It’s clear why so many business owners have been posing the question, “Should I accept cash during a health crisis?” 

As with many decisions about your business, choosing to or to prohibit it will likely have long-lasting effects on your customer retention. Merchants must consider if the banning of cash at your establishment will discourage customers from shopping with you, or alternatively attract those trying to shop safely. This is a judgement call that each business owner should make based on what they know of their customers. What do your customers value? What do they expect from the service or product you offer? Whole Foods, for example, understands that their buyers are willing to sacrifice some change in convenience in order to lead a healthier lifestyle. That’s why some of their stores have made the decision to post signage that they are not currently accepting cash payments. Other merchants like medical offices or restaurants likely also have customers who would welcome a loss in convenience in exchange for fewer health risks.

If protecting your staff and patrons from an illness living on paper money is your decision, find out if going cashless is even legal in your area. For decades, Massachusetts was the only state where it was illegal not to accept cash as a viable payment method. Mid 2019 brought New Jersey and Connecticut alongside Massachusetts in banning cashless establishments. Even some metropolitan areas have claimed to be legally allowed to make cash bans. Although these areas have such laws in place, they are controversial because of a question of discrimination. According to the FDIC, 25% of Americans are either unbanked or underbanked. This means they they either have no savings or checking accounts, or that they manage all of their transactions without the aid of a financial institution. This could be because of too few funds to maintain an account, or because of too little trust in banks. Either way, they are directly inconvenienced by cashless businesses, and should be considered when you make the choice to accept paper money or not.

Among obvious incentives of encouraging touch-free payments during a health crisis, know that a purely electronic transaction world is just around the corner anyway. To push your patrons towards always keeping a card in their wallets will prepare both you and them for the inevitable end of cash. Sweden’s goal of becoming 100% cashless by 2023 is estimated to encourage other countries like China and the UK to follow suit. 

Ultimately, we and any other merchant services provider can’t determine if you should accept cash during a health crisis because you know your patrons best! We can advise you though, to keep your customers and staff as safe as possible by making every electronic transaction completely hands-free. Digital receipts, NFC technology and disinfectant spray compatible card machines are slowing the spread of Covid-19 with every transaction. Whatever payment method you accept, zero-touch terminals help battle viral infections while speeding up checkout and keeping electronic data safe.


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