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As More Cities Ban Cashless Businesses, New York Wants to Follow

Some New Yorkers believe cash-free businesses violate civil rights and want to join cities like Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington in banning them.
The exterior of a Sweetgreen in New York City. An American fast-food chain selling salads and grain bowls, Sweetgreens do not accept cash unless city or state regulations mandate that they do.
The exterior of a Sweetgreen in New York City. An American fast-food chain selling salads and grain bowls, Sweetgreens do not accept cash unless city or state regulations mandate that they do.Rebecca Bellan/CityLab

In February, New York City Councilmember Ritchie Torres introduced legislation that would prohibit retail establishments from refusing to accept payments in cash. The council hasn’t made a decision on the bill yet, but Torres is confident that it will pass by mid-year. If it does, cashless businesses could face fines of up to $500 for every violation.

The legislation protects consumer choice of payment, but the conversation surrounding the bill echoes that of many nationwide challenges to the movement toward a cashless economy: A cashless business discriminates against low-income people, and often they are people of color and undocumented immigrants.