Washington embraces cash-free living -- but at what cost?

Washington embraces cash-free living -- but at what cost?
Shares

Washington: As the US capital traded stifling summer heat for cool autumn breezes, signs began appearing at bus stops, asking Washington commuters: what do you think about buses going cash-free?

Salad lunch spot Sweetgreen doesn't take greenbacks. Neither do certain vendors at Nationals Park like Ben's Chili Bowl, a local eatery popular with baseball fans.

Slowly, DC businesses are ditching paper money for plastic, embracing a trend gaining traction nationwide.

"I'm all for the cash-free system" on buses, Rogers Ferguson , a 52-year-old Washington native and Navy veteran, told AFP.

"I do a lot of travelling abroad so I'm very acclimated to not carrying cash."

The 2018 World Payments Report, released this month by consultancy Capgemini and banking giant BNP Paribas, indicates a global cash-free boom.

In 2015-2016, 483 billion transactions were cashless. That number is expected to rise at a 13 percent compound annual rate through 2021, according to the report.

Though the United States has often been a laggard in terms of payments innovations, businesses in Washington are adopting the cash-free model.

Bus operator WMATA told AFP it is exploring the concept for efficiency reasons: accepting cash can waste lots of time when customers are boarding.

But cost and security are also key factors, says James Angel, a professor at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business.

Cash is "expensive to transport, you've got to count it, you've got to worry about it disappearing and you also have to worry about the safety of your employees," he explained.

APP/AFP

More from this category