Chicago Alderman Decrees Ban on Cashless

Nov 6, 2017


Chicago's distinguished Alderman Edward Burke (14th Ward) introduced an ordinance to prohibit licensees from refusing cash as payment for goods or services at a City Council meeting on 11th October 2017.

The ordinance was immediately co-sponsored by the state's beloved Walter Burnett Jr (27th) Chairman of Pedestrian & Traffic Safety. If, or rather, when the law passes, Chicago's cashless retailers — particularly those in pursuit of Visa's Cashless Challenge — will be facing steep fines or losing their business license for illegally refusing cash. 

Chicago's cashless cafés and fooderies may soon lose their dream shops, and it definitely won't be Visa helping them out from this plastic nightmare. Legally, the giant card-company is likely to find itself in the clear. According to the first clause of the Visa 2017 Cashless Challenge Rules, '[the merchant is] solely responsible for complying with [their] local laws regarding what forms of payment your business must accept.'

Local laws in each state may differ, but when Ald. Burke reads out a federal banknote during an NBC Chicago video interview, he addresses anyone looking to ban cash in the United States of America. He reads, "'This note is legal tender for all debts public and private'", and adds, "so follow the law".  

Snippet of Chicago's City Council Legislation Text from Ordinance File #: O2017-7145, Version: 1

This begs the question, is Visa in moral hot water?

The motivation behind the ordinance surrounds the protection of social rights and individuals' rights to privacy, both of which are threatened by a cashless society. 

It is expected that the most affected would be minorities, people with disabilities, and those born after 1982. This is particularly true for the 7.1% of Illinois' households which are unbanked and the 37% of those who earn under $30k annually.

Ultimately, Burke's Ordinance aims to protect those people 'and to ensure fair and equal access to the businesses and services that it licenses and regulates' from the trending policy that 'threatens to marginalize significant numbers of Chicagoans'.

Alderman Burke is known as one of the most influential Chicagoans. His city budget expertise, professional network and record-breaking 40 years Chairing the Council's Committee on Finance make him a force to be reckoned with. Even the City Council's website happily admits that he 'holds the city’s purse strings and is responsible for all legislative matters pertaining to the city’s finances, including municipal bonds, taxes and revenue matters.' Look out anti-cash campaigners...

"A 'no cash' sign is a 'not welcome' sign for many without ready access to credit, including those who are low- or fixed-income, homeless, undocumented, young or victims of identity theft,"
"Edward BurkeAlderman (14th Ward) and Chair ofCouncil's Committee on Finance

Excerpt from Chicago Tribune article by Robert Reed

The ordinance claims [Visa's Cashless Challenge] program is proof that going cashless is not pro-consumer but a sop to credit card companies that profit from retailers’ transaction fees. 

Visa didn’t know anything about the proposed Chicago law until I gave the company a call. In a statement, it stressed the Visa “challenge” does not require stores to stop using cash. “We do, however, hope merchants and consumers increasingly see the value in using less cash and embracing a digital future,” the statement added.

 Excerpt from DNAinfo Chicago's article by Ted Cox and Alisa Hauser 

It adds that those under 18 can't apply for credit cards, making a cash ban "de facto age discrimination," while many low-income families can't even afford to open a bank account.

The ordinance would make it illegal to decline cash as payment at any business in retail sales or food and drink, under the penalty of fines starting at $1,000 and up to $2,500 a day. 

"If a business won't take cash as payment, I won't patronize it."
"Karen GinsbergA Chicagan who wrote a Letter to the Craine EditorCrain’s Chicago Business Data Center

Even though Visa allegedly is not directly paying merchants to go 100% cashless (see clause below), why would the participating retailers enter a cashless challenge on the assumption that going 50% cashless would win them the $50,000 award? Also, what in the world is a 50% cashless business? 

'Participants are not required to “go cashless” or exclusively accept electronic payments to either be an Eligible Participant or win an Award.' (Source: Visa 2017 Cashless Challenge Rules).   

Read original article here

Watch NBC Chicago interview here


Cox, Ted, and Alisa Hauser. "Cashless Society? Not If Ald. Burke Can Help It." DNAinfo Chicago. October 18, 2017. Accessed November 06, 2017. Web.

Ginsberg, Karen. "Don't take cash? I'll take my business elsewhere." Letters to the Editor. Craine's Chicago Business. August 12, 2017. Accessed November 06, 2017. Web.

Reed, Robert. "To avoid city backlash, restaurants and retailers should dump cashless ways." October 19, 2017. Accessed November 06, 2017. Web.

Last Updated: Dec 20, 2017