The other day at Dig Inn, a just-opened lunch spot on Broadway and 38th Street in Midtown Manhattan, Shania Bryant committed a consumer faux pas. She placed her order for chicken and brown rice and yams, and when she got to the register, she held out a $50 bill.
“Sorry,” the cashier told her. “We don’t take cash.” Not, “We don’t take $50s.” No cash. Period.
I love it. I may be getting old, but on this one I've been ahead of the curve for a while. I almost never use cash. Almost never carry it either. I was just in Los Angeles for a four-day vacation with Youngest, and of course I carried my little stash of US bills... the same one I've been using for over a year that included three trips to America.
I use plastic and, increasingly, my phone to pay for stuff. Love the scan-n-go. I don't use debit, because of the points I get when I use credit cards. Those get me free groceries or free gas, and it makes a difference in my budget. And yes, my rewards are free. I only use credit cards that have no annual fees and I pay my balance in full every month. (I guess my free rewards are subsidized by the folks who carry a balance on their cards. Maybe I should thank them.)
I can understand why small sandwich shops don't want cash. It's a hassle - I used to work in restaurants, and had to go get change to the bank two or three times a week, it was a pain. You also have to go deposit huge wads of bills to the bank, often after hours when it's dark and you're never too sure who might be watching the deposit window. You need to carry a float at all times, and there's a few hundred bucks sitting there doing nothing. Cash is tempting for thieves, big and small. Taking credit cards has never been easier. Sure, there's a fee - Visa and Mastercard don't work for free. But for the convenience and safety of not carrying cash around, it's worth it.
I'm old enough to remember people cashing their paychecks and carrying all this money in their pockets for two weeks. I never thought it was a great idea. We'll never completely get rid of cash. But not having to use it much sure feels like progress.