Philadelphia bans cashless stores to protect 'unbanked' shoppers

Philadelphia has become the first city in the US to ban cashless stores following a City Council vote against the retail practice. Cities have faced growing criticism over the number of retail stores that have eliminated the option to pay with cash, instead requiring a mobile or card transaction. The new rule requiring stores to accept cash payments will start this summer.

Though cashless payments have become an increasingly popular way to purchase goods, cash is still accepted at most stores throughout the US. A growing trend, however, has seen a number of shops transition to a cashless business model, requiring customers to pay with a physical bank card or, in some cases, a mobile payment system.

Though digital transactions are faster and easier, they leave some people out altogether. Individuals who don't have bank accounts or credit cards are forced to use cash, which is impossible in a cashless store. It's that problem that Philadelphia has addressed with its regulation, which will require shops to accept legal tender as payment.

The regulation underscores a clash between any increasingly digital world and the people it is leaving behind. Critics have called cashless stores harmful, saying that though they may be more convenient, they ultimately discriminate against individuals who can't accommodate the restriction.

Speaking with the NYT, the bill's co-sponsor Bill Greenlee, City Councilman, explained, "It just seemed to me unfair that I could walk into a coffee shop right across from City Hall, and I had a credit card and could get a cup of coffee. And the person behind me, who had United States currency, could not."