WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) today introduced the Payment Choice Act to provide customers the freedom to choose how to pay for goods or services. With the increased use of electronic means of payment during the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are refusing to accept cash, potentially denying hundreds of customers access to the goods or services they need. The legislation would prohibit retail businesses from refusing to accept cash as a form of payment, posting signs that cash is not accepted, and charging a higher price for using cash than for other forms of payment.

“While I fully understand that businesses have expanded their contactless payment options during the pandemic, refusing cash discriminates against certain populations and denies people equal access to the same goods or services. The truth is: not everyone carries a credit card or uses cashless apps, and customers paying with cash—legal tender printed and backed by the U.S. Treasury—should not be denied goods or services,” said Sen. Menendez. “Our bipartisan, commonsense legislation would guarantee everyone—including those who are unbanked or underbanked–- can continue to participate in the economy.”

“Businesses who prohibit cash payments discriminate against the millions of Americans who do not have bank accounts while forcing customers to exclusively use a less secure form of payment,” said Sen. Cramer. “Our legislation protects people’s right to choose their preferred currency and ensures the money we print remains usable as legal tender for all debts, just as it says.”

According to the Federal Reserve, six percent of Americans are unbanked, meaning they don’t have a checking or savings account, and 16 percent of Americans are underbanked, which means they rely on a variety financial services, such as money orders, to make transactions. Unbanked and underbanked consumers are more likely to have lower incomes, less education, or be a member of a racial or ethnic minority group.

Cash represents up to 30 percent of all transactions and 55 percent of transactions under $10. With more than 35 million Americans having lost their jobs in recent months, many could lose access to financial services and be forced to rely on cash for everyday expenses.

A similar bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Donald M. Payne Jr. (D-N.J.-10) in May 2019.

The text of the bill can be downloaded here.