Once upon a time, there were restaurants that only accepted cash. Now, there are an increasing number of establishments where paying by bank or credit card is the only option. But not if New York City has anything to say about it. On Thursday, January 23, 2020, the New York City Council voted to ban businesses from refusing to accept cash payments, amid concerns that those establishments discriminated against customers without access to bank accounts.

Indeed, according to a recent NYC Consumer Affairs report, nearly 11.2 percent of New Yorkers have no bank account, and 21.8 percent use “alternative financial products for their banking needs.” The bill will protect their ability to continue to pay in cash.

Although the bill makes it illegal for stores to refuse cash payments, they can refuse to accept denominations larger than $20 and will be exempt if there is a machine onsite that can load cash onto a prepaid card.

New York is following an example set recently by Philadelphia, San Francisco, and New Jersey.

City Councilman Ritchie Torres, who drafted the bill, said in a news conference, “Whatever your reasons, consumers should have the power to choose their preferred method of payment […] The marketplace of the future must accommodate the needs of vulnerable New Yorkers.”

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