Image of a hand holding two hundred dollar bills

Should Cash Disappear?

As You Read, Think About: How might your life change if we no longer used cash?

If you want to buy a hot dog at Dodger Stadium, don’t bother pulling out dollar bills or coins. The Los Angeles, California, stadium accepts only credit and debit cards or app payments. In fact, a  growing number of businesses across the U.S. no longer accept cash. 

But many people think cash is still king. They say using it keeps customers from overspending since they can see how much money they have left after a purchase. They also argue that not everyone has access to digital payment options. 

This is part of the reason why the U.S. has not yet gone cashless. States like New Jersey and Massachusetts have made it illegal for some businesses to refuse physical currency. A similar law passed in 2020 made it illegal for stores in New York City to go cash-free. 

Some consumers think it’s time to ditch the dollar, though. After all, you can buy just about anything with the click of a button using apps like Apple Pay. For the billions of people who shop online, cash isn’t even an option. Plus, bills and coins are covered in germs, which is pretty gross. 

Is it time to get rid of cash?

SDI Productions/Getty Images

“Do you have cash in your wallet right now?”

Cornell University professor Eswar Prasad often asks his classes this question. Usually, no one raises their hand. Prasad is not surprised since the number of people who use cash has dipped in recent years. 

“The switch from cash to digital payments has had advantages,” he explains.

About 41 percent of Americans don’t use cash in a typical week.

Source: Pew Research Center

For one, using apps is convenient. People don’t need to constantly go to the ATM to take out money. They don’t have to worry about carrying around clunky coins either. 

Paying by app or card can also make checkout lines move faster. Shoppers and cashiers don’t have to count out bills and change.

Plus, making money actually costs a lot of money. This year, the U.S. set aside more than $930 million to make new currency. That money could be used in other ways.

“I think within the next 5 to 10 years, we will not see much cash in use,” Prasad says.

Some experts say there’s no need to empty your piggy bank just yet. Kenneth Rogoff estimates that the U.S. is decades away from going cashless.

“I don’t think we’re prepared,” the Harvard University professor explains. 

To use cash-sharing apps like Venmo and Zelle, you need a smartphone. Going cashless would cause problems for those without access to technology. You also need a bank account—and nearly 6 million families in the U.S. don’t have one.

About 5 percent of American households don’t have bank accounts. 

Source: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

And going cash-free can also wind up costing consumers. Credit card companies charge businesses fees. In turn, many stores raise prices to make up for those fees.

Cash makes the most sense for kids too. Think about buying something at the school book fair or from the ice-cream truck. Parents are more likely to hand over a $5 bill than a credit card or their smartphone. 

“There’s just no reason to get rid of cash completely,” Rogoff says.

1. What does the author mean when she writes that “many people think cash is still king”?

2. According to the article, what are the main arguments for getting rid of cash?

3. Why does the article say that going cash-free can actually cost consumers money?

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