Bipartisan Support for U.S. Payment Choice Act
The right of all Americans to pay for goods and services in cash—free from restrictions on payment choice imposed by businesses—is being considered for introduction into nationwide law in a bill supported by both sides of the political aisle.
The Payment Choice Act of 2021 would make it illegal for retailers to reject cash for in-person, consumer transactions across the country. While its sponsor, U.S. Representative Donald Payne Jr., is a Democrat, the bill is bipartisan, with Payments Dive recently reporting it now has 37 co-sponsors from both the Democrat and Republican parties.
In August this year, Payne and two colleagues—Democrat Rep. Sylvia Garcia and Republican Rep. Chris Smith—wrote a letter to Congress in support of the Act, reinforcing the message that payment choice is a matter of concern for all Americans, regardless of political affiliation. In a press release launching the bill, Rep. Payne notes concerns around digital payments related to privacy, inclusion and resilience.
Data collection is a $200 billion industry and recent company data breaches in the U.S. and worldwide have revealed private information on millions of customers.
Payne notes: “People who pay in cash never have to worry about a hacker stealing their data or identity.” His concerns are echoed by many Americans, according to Sarah Grotta, a director at the Mercator Advisory Group, who says: “We’ve found in some of our surveys that those who use cash are using it because they feel it’s more safe.”
Regarding inclusion, Payne highlights the 55 million Americans who lack a bank account and rely on cash to cover every need. These individuals are at risk of being excluded from society should cashless payments become the only option. Beyond this significant group, many more could find themselves unable to pay for necessities in an emergency due to the reliance of cashless payments on electricity and internet connectivity.
Cash is the only way to pay for items during a natural disaster. If a hurricane or other catastrophe were to knock out a power grid anywhere in the country, Americans would not be able to pay for critical, life-saving supplies to protect them and their families.
The Payment Choice Act of 2021 is the most recent drive to secure Americans’ right to pay cash, with several states and cities including Washington D.C., New York City, Colorado, San Francisco and Massachusetts already passing local-level legislation ensuring businesses may not refuse payment in banknotes and coins. In July 2020, Senators Menendez and Cramer also introduced a bill aimed at securing free payment choice.
Concerning progress on passing the Payment Choice Act, Payments Dive reports that, in the House, Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters has expressed interest in advancing it, and Payne is now pressing members to set a hearing date.