Support Marketplace

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.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...