By Rachel Morey


5 Min. To Read

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Is cash on its way to becoming a financial dinosaur? If Visa has their way, extinction is imminent. Visa plans to hand $10,000 over to each of 50 restaurants and food vendors for marketing and technology upgrades if the business will commit to starting what Visa calls, “the journey cashless.”

It’s called the Visa Challenge, and it’s the company’s self-proclaimed “war on cash.”

The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco says that purchases made with cash dropped from 40% in 2012 to 32% in 2015. Young people and those without access to banking services still rely heavily on cash for daily necessities. Personal care and food make up a large amount of cash sales. Credit card companies and banks make an average of 2% on each transaction. That’s a big incentive to encourage a cashless marketplace. The first cash-free restaurants in Europe indicate that cash is an unnecessary inconvenience. With electronic transactions, there’s no need to count and transport physical cash.

The 500-euro note was recently discontinued, and there is currently a hot debate in the United States about the need for a $100 bill and whether the universally accepted large bills facilitate crime.

People regularly use cash in spending categories like parking, monthly rent payments, and small daily expenses like coffee.

Recently, Visa signed an agreement with the Polish government to move the country into a completely cashless system. For some, this may seem like progress. Others prefer to retain their ability to choose how to pay for the goods and services they receive throughout the course of normal day-to-day life.

Enforcing a policy of 100% cash-free transactions on the public could mean losing business for restaurants that can’t afford to lose a segment of their loyal patrons who prefer paying with cash, or simply don’t have a Visa-branded card that they carry every day.

The chip-enabled cards that promise a higher level of security are a time suck for many people who complain that simply having to leave the chipped card inside the machine and wait for approval is a more cumbersome process than the swipe-and-go convenience of the nearly obsolete magnetic strip.

Apps like ApplePay also create a small time suck for customers and the people waiting in line behind them; there’s no fumbling to find the right icon on a tiny screen when you pay with cash.

Employees who rely on tips (at least some of which come from customers in the form of cash) may not love the idea of turning over a previously immediate source of income while allowing their employer to process, track, and tax tips with their regular paycheck.

Exactly how Visa will monitor the details of a business’s daily financial transactions is unclear, as well. It’s unlikely that restaurant owners are willing to hand the keys to the cash register over to the prying eyes of a hypothetical Visa watchdog team.

Small and single-location brick-and-mortar businesses often offer a bit of a “bonus” for paying cash. Some offer a few percentage points in the form of a discount. Consumers could save 10-15% off of their total bill at their favorite locally-owned restaurant simply by asking if they offer a cash discount.

Service-oriented businesses like computer repair shops, plumbers, and roof repair businesses may also offer between 5% and 15% off of the total bill if the customer offers to pay them with cash. In many cases, getting a cash discount is as simple as asking for one. Considering the fact that it may soon be a thing of the past, now is a great time to find out if local businesses offer this perk.

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