Living a cashless life

We seem to be heading toward a society where cash simply isn’t welcome.

How much cash is in your wallet right now? Don’t know, do you? That’s because our society is hurtling toward cashlessness. Just about everyone from Starbucks to taxi cabs to your cable company take plastic these days, and a couple months ago, Slates Seth Stevenson decided to speed up the clock a bit and start living a cashless life.

While it’s gone smoothly so far, says Stevenson, there are still some things that cash is much better for. Tipping for one. Stevenson found himself accidentally stiffing a bell boy at a hotel because he had no small bills to give him for his trouble. In fact, he had no bills, period. He’s considering carrying low-denomination gift cards in the future for these moments.

The other transaction category that cash is still king is in the realm of elicit activities. You can’t buy pot with a card, right? Or can you? Stevenson approached a dealer to find out.

“I asked the guy… ‘Will you accept a $20 Target gift card for this gram of marijuana?’ He sort of scratched his chin and said, ‘Well, I do live near Target; I do need some household wares, so okay. Fine.’”

That’s how close we are to a cashless society. But fear of technology (not everone has a smartphone and the know-how to use apps like Square) and “the man” (many people don’t want all their money easily trackable by the government and credit card companies) will keep our wallets full of the green stuff for a least a few more years.

About the author

Tess Vigeland is the host of Marketplace Money, where she takes a deep dive into why we do what we do with our money.
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From The Article: "cash is still king is in the realm of elicit activities."

While cash will certainly elicit activity, I think you meant to refer to illicit activities...

I heard something that I have to disagree with in your story about a cashless society. The person you were talking with said that he gets change in his pocket and puts it on the bureau at the end of the day and it just stays there. I use both my debit card and cash. When I use cash I bring the coins home and put them in the blessings jar. Actually it is just a mayonnaise jar with blessings written on it. The point is that every time I drop coins into that jar, it reminds me how blessed I am. I thank that is a good thing to remember. Also when the blessings jar is full, I take it to the bank, get the cash and stash it. I save it up for a vacation or dinner out or something special. It is surprising how quickly it adds up. To me it is found money and it reminds me to count my blessings. A win win I think.

I found this segment to be a good lesson in what is possible. As I am planning my post-retirement travel, I'm trying to get a good idea about where my money is going. This is so much easier going cashless and a better use of how I want to spend my retirement savings. Thanks for the great comments.

It occurs to me that accepting gift cards as payment for elicit substances is not a good idea. Specifically, a recent New York Times article described how Target keeps track of nearly all data related to customers' identity and financial transactions. The gift card, paid for with a credit card, can be tracked directly back to Mr. Stevenson. Target can assume that whoever used the gift card knows Mr. Stevenson. If the drug dealer was to pay for merchandise partly with the gift card and partly with another credit or debit card, he could then be traced back to the buyer.

Due to healthy paranoia, I have started 1. paying for everything in cash, and 2. only shopping at local businesses that likely are not trying to track my identity. The fact that the local businesses don't have to pay credit card fees is just another perk.

Has anyone ever gone to a currency exchange or stood behind some immigrants in the grocery store? Immigrants ONLY use cash. They don't have credit cards and debits. First, the fees turn them off. Second, it's just easier to do whatever they do in cash. And it's easy to keep track of spending. The Currency exchange will let them pay their utilities, they can also pay their landlord through the currency exchange.

Please... PLEASE people, stop using credit and debit cards to pay people who are standing right in front of you. Every time you swipe that card, a bank gets a cut. Not the small business owner, not the waiter, not even Wal-mart.

In my 36 years on this Earth I have always carried cash. Here is the breakdown on where it has been lost or stolen:

Stolen/mugged/robbed - $0.00 (and I have lived in, slept in, and hung out in a lot of shady places in my youth. I just tried not to be a dummy about it.)

Lost - $0.00 (inconsequential, I'm sure I have misplaced $20.00 somewhere in my life but I can't remember)

Bank fees - $2000 - $3000 - This is between me and my wife in the last ten years - she uses a debit card a lot more than me. This is only penalties for minor mistakes or merchant fraud (what they like to call "merchant error"), such as someone double charging you $190, which causes your account to go into the negative, which than, through their creative accounting practices, manages to accrue $900 in overdraft fees, right before Christmas. I ran to the bank and deposited $200 in cash to head off disaster but...

Add to this the fact that once you get sick of dealing with them, you cannot get paid legally with a check, and cash said check, without some institution taking $5 - $10 out for the "privilege". My employer already pays the bank every month for the privilege of writing checks and keeping everything above board, on top of loaning them money, interest free.

Why should we give these people more money?

Ask yourself, "Where is my money safe?". It is d**n sure not in a bank.

Re: cashless life. Listening to that segment made me sick. Hearing a grown man whine about the inconvenience of having a wad of cash in his pocket was ridiculous to say the least. Most in this country and all of the third world populations pray for more cash in their pockets because it symbolizes shelter and food. It is hearing this kind of idiot that explains why much of the world hate Americans. Tell that man to volunteer his time in a war torn, drought inflicted country and say that again. I'll bet George Clooney didn't complain about his cash burden in Darfur! And for God's sake, he needs to go back to the doorman he stiffed and pay him. That person needs the cash he doesn't want! What a jerk.

The juxtaposition of the warnings about investing in stock market at the start of the program with the cavalier dismissal of 'some people are paranoid' about a cashless society is weird. Currently right-wing "religious" legislators are attempting to control personal health care for women through insurance coverage...what could be easier than to skip that step and block payment through the cashless system. I think already credit cards cannot be used for some forms of gambling {NOT equating contracption with gambling, just the social controls via payment system]. Hacking into credit card systems has been pretty frequent. One more suggestion: whenever you talk about this, READ the book, not see the film of Margaret Drabble's "The Handmaid's Tale" for a description of the cashless society and its consequences. Many people have noted as well, the apparently cheerful way the experimenter dismisses the effect of stiffing the various service workers, and friends he 'borrows' money from for his experiment.
Add in the earlier talk about the thoughtlessness engendered by habit earlier in the program, and I wonder if you checked your critical awareness somewhere in the program---or, maybe you do just trust your listeners to get the connections...tacitly...

I certainly do trust our listeners! They're a very smart bunch and they know the show well enough by now to understand that we try represent a variety of opinions and points of view, rather than hewing to a narrow idea of the way the world works. We don't expect everyone to agree with or relate to everything that we put on the air. What we do hope is that these different points of view will generate conversation, discourse and perhaps even mutual understanding.

you dont need an atm in the middle of the night .Get some bills of various denominations, freeze them in paepr cups and store in yuor freezer ....if you need middle of the night cash, put one in the microwave....


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