San Francisco Requires Businesses to Take Cash Payments

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The San Francisco County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to require most businesses to accept cash rather than debit or credit cards only.

Citing discrimination against those who don’t have bank accounts and the poor in particular, county lawmakers voted to amend the Police Code to require brick-and-mortar businesses to accept cash payments for goods and services other than professional services.

“This law will ensure all San Franciscans have equitable access to this city’s economy,” said Vallie Brown, who introduced the ordinance in February.

For many residents, particularly low-income citizens, the lack of access to credit or a bank account means they can’t buy goods from an increasing share of businesses that rely exclusively on card-based transactions.

“In the last major study of the unbanked in San Francisco, as many as 50% of African-Americans and Latinx were unbanked,” Brown said, using a recently coined term that means Latinos. “Other affected groups include young people and seniors, people experiencing homelessness, immigrants and victims of identity theft.”

San Francisco became the first jurisdiction in California to pass such a law, following other cities like Philadelphia and states like New Jersey and Massachusetts. New York and Chicago are considering similar proposals.

Many citizens are distrustful of banks and prefer to keep cash on hand, meaning stores that don’t accept cash can unintentionally discriminate against those people.

The FDIC issued a report in 2017 that estimated about 6.5% of American households – about 8.4 million – don’t have bank accounts.

Supervisor Shamann Walton said the large block of unbanked people in San Francisco underscored the need for a public bank.

The amendment was altered to carve out online businesses and temporary businesses like food trucks and pop-ups. Brown also allowed an amendment for businesses to prohibit cash exchanges for purchases greater than $5,000.

In April, Amazon executive Steve Kessel, who operates the Amazon Go brick-and-mortar stores, said the locations will begin accepting cash to avoid “discrimination and elitism.” The stores are fully automated and have no cashiers.

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