Cash Balances Innovation and Inclusion

Oct 24, 2023


Atlanta City Councilmember Antonio Lewis has announced his intention to work with state lawmakers to ban cashless businesses across Georgia, seeking a balance of innovation and inclusion in payments that will ensure they serve every corner of society.

Speaking to WABE—an independent, non-profit source of local stories in Atlanta—Lewis states that he respects the decisions of business owners to transact in the ways that suit them, but points out that cash is by nature the most universal, given it is usable by anyone, anytime, anywhere.

This legislation [to ban cashless business] right here, meat and potatoes. Cash is the legal tender for all goods and sale in the United States. It’s printed on the watermark.
"Atlanta City Councilmember Antonio Lewis

Figures from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation show 6.7 percent of Georgian households are unbanked, meaning no one in the household has a checking or savings account with a bank or credit union. Black and Hispanic households are more likely to fall into this category than their white counterparts.

In addition to requiring a bank account, cashless payments may be inaccessible to people due to their age—being either very young or very old—credit rating, lack of internet access and many other factors that often disproportionately affect disadvantaged members of society.

[Cashless business is] bad for people of colour. I’m going to say it out loud: it’s bad for people of colour! I’ve got to make sure that, in the state of Georgia, it works for all of us.
"Atlanta City Councilmember Antonio Lewis

There is considerable precedent for Lewis’s proposal for the introduction of legislation protecting cash and payment choice. It is already illegal for businesses not to accept cash in states including Arizona, Colorado, District of Columbia, Michigan, Mississippi and New York, and cities such as Washington D.C., Chicago and Philadelphia. Los Angeles is the among recent jurisdictions to consider a cashless ban, and a bipartisan bill was reintroduced to the US Senate in July of this year, aiming to prohibit businesses nationwide from refusing cash payments, or charging a higher price to use cash.

Last Updated: Oct 24, 2023