Cash is King: Why Cash Is Superior to Mobile Payments & Credit Cards
Published: June 25th, 2022
One thing I've observed while traveling throughout SE Asia is just how heavily cash is used compared to that of the US, even for things such as paying for cabs and hotels. While I used to be in favor of a cashless society that relies solely on credit/debit cards and mobile payments, I've since changed my tune on the topic. Although using card and mobile payments can be convenient and more secure in some circumstances, these methods of payment add unnecessary complexity and brings in 3rd parties into transactions, and are also forms of surveillance capitalism which is detrimental to both our privacy and security. This post is for the previous iteration of myself who never really thought much about the potential ramifications of a world without cash.
Some benefits that cash has over cards and mobile payments apps:
- Cashless payment methods means someone else has the authority and must give you permission for economic participation to buy, sell, trade, etc. With cash, you do not need someone else's permission to conduct business.
- Transactions are private and potentially anonymous. There's no middle person such as a bank, Visa, Mastercard, Google, Apple, etc between myself and the merchant or person I'm conducting business. Unfortunately, we live in a world where these entities will likely sell my purchasing habits to advertising companies to make an extra buck. Using cash also has the added benefit of less likely of being tracked by the merchant themselves.
- Transactions are final. The merchant has no risk of chargebacks, and the buyer doesn't risk having the merchant making additional charges without their consent or being "tricked" into it. There's no risk of having my card information stored and charged at a later date. Or worse, there's no risk of card details being leaked online and used for fraudulent transactions. With cash, there's no shady terminal that could lie to me about the amount being charged or there being an incorrect amount.
- Cash doesn't require the electricity or a telephone connection. When the power goes down, no one will be able to pay for gas or buy a meal.
- Cashless totally ignores rural America. We still have businesses in areas with unreliable internet that makes taking cards too troublesome.
- Identify theft is drastically minimized. The maximum amount you can lose is limited to what you have in your wallet. I suppose the caveat here is that if someone steals your credit card, you can cancel the card with the potentiality of being reimbursed by the financial institution.
- It's easier to understand psychologically. As Dave Ramsey loves to point out, you're far less likely to overspend using cash as opposed to a credit or debit card. It's also far easier to get out of debt when you switch to using cash. When you trade something physical (in this case cash) for goods or services, it's simpler and much easier to understand. You tend to save more when you only use cash. When you use a credit card (or app), there's a psychological disconnect because when you hand over your card, you get it returned to you.
- It makes day-to-day life more complex. There isn't an bank, credit card company, account, interest, fees, reward points, or any other types of nonsense. Using credit/mobile payments only adds layers of complexity to what should ordinarily be a simple transaction. The average consumer is unaware that these fees exist and are incorporated into the costs of goods and services that they purchase. In Oregon, there's a grocery store chain called Winco that offers groceries at a slightly cheaper price because it does not accept the use of credit cards and only cash, debit, or EBT.
- People living in poverty who cannot obtain a debit or credit card for one reason or another are excluded from economic participation. Going cashless is not good for the poor. Most of them do not have checking accounts. Those reusable Visa cards typically have fees.
There's no doubt a lot of benefits to using credit cards and apps like Apple Pay as they can be safer in some respects. Personally, for when I need to make a purchase online I use Privacy.com (a proxy linked to my bank account) to pay all of my online bills and I can set a limit to each Privacy.com card so that if the merchant spends more than the amount I set, the card will be declined. I use cash for everything else, while every once in a while writing a check if I need to send my partner money. Up until 2020 or so, I payed for everything with my credit card. I was very enthusiastic about living in a cashless world and earning points on my credit card when I spent more.
Sadly, I've seen more and more businesses in the US go cashless, sometimes refusing to accept cash whatsoever. I understand much of the reasoning behind this, but I reject it as it creates a less free society.
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