New York Defends the Right to Pay Cash
It has been illegal for New York businesses to discriminate against cash users since November 2020, and the city has been busy ever since ensuring holdouts are aware that, in the Big Apple, payment choice cannot be denied.
Under the law, businesses with physical premises must accept cash, or else offer a machine that will convert cash to a balance on a prepaid card. Sponsored by then-Councilman Ritchie Torres, it ensures everyone has equal access to goods and services, regardless of their personal circumstances or payment preference.
The City of New York cannot allow the digital economy to leave behind the 25 percent of New Yorkers who are chronically unbanked and underbanked.
One named-and-shamed example of non-compliant establishments is the high-end ice cream parlour Van Leeuwen, which has been fined $12,750 after complaints were made against several of its outlets for refusing cash payments. While co-founder Ben Van Leeuwen denied the violations—claiming no one had tried to pay in notes and coins—his testimony conflicted with photographs showing signs displayed in the parlours’ windows saying cash was not accepted.
Rizzoli Bookstore on the Upper West Side’s Broadway was fined $500 after pleading guilty to refusing cash payments. They have since acknowledged the error and confirmed they are now accepting it.
The NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection has pushed back against holdout businesses complaining they are being denied ‘operational opportunities’ they say would be offered by fully-cashless operation, explaining the issue is one of both equity and basic freedom of choice.
Cashless businesses isolate the more than 300,000 unbanked households in NYC from making transactions, as well as those who simply choose not to use plastic.