Aug 22, 2023, 6:52am EDT

One Congressman’s quest to keep cash legal

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

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The News

Cryptocurrency may be the hot topic in Congress this year, but some members are more concerned with making sure the dollar bill doesn’t go extinct.

Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., introduced the Payment Choice Act of 2023 last month to ensure cash payments are accepted at brick-and-mortar businesses or risk being sued for damages and subjected to fines. The bill also prohibits stores from up-charging customers who use cash.

“It’s almost like they’re outlawing the American dollar, and that’s un-American,” Payne told Semafor. “The dollar should be legal tender and accepted in this country.”

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Know More

You’re not imagining it, people really are using hard currency less. Forty-one percent of Americans say they don’t use cash in a typical week, up from 29% in 2018, according to a Pew Research poll last year. A Gallup survey last year also found 13% of Americans strictly or mostly use cash, down from 28% just five years ago.

That’s still a considerable number of consumers, and they’re likely not doling out Benjamins. Americans with lower incomes tend to be more reliant on cash, and three out of 10 Americans whose income falls below $30,000 say they mostly use cash, according to Pew.


There’s also concern about seniors transitioning into a society of cell phone payments and credit card chips. society of cell phone payments and credit card chips.. Payne said he was inspired to pursue his bill in part because an elderly constituent was told by a local bodega she lives on top of that they no longer took cash, forcing her to walk several blocks to buy groceries.

“People shouldn’t be left out of this economy because they don’t use the latest technology,” Payne said.

The bill has bipartisan support with two Republican co-sponsors. And while Payne says it’s tougher to get attention to his legislation in the minority, he’s been in talks with House Financial Services chair Patrick McHenry, R-N.C.

“I’ve got a lot of Republican members that care a lot about what he’s constructed, what his intent is, which is to allow cash to still be used as cash,” McHenry told Semafor.