Council Member Ritchie Torres Cites Plastic-Only Places Penalize Communities Without Strong Access To Credit Cards

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The New York City Council is considering a bill that would stop restaurants and retail businesses from refusing to accept payments in cash.

New York City Council member Ritchie Torres, who represents parts of the Bronx, proposed the bill last November that would affect shops that currently only take electronic payments with credit and debit cards.

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“I have concerns about moving towards a mostly cashless economy and what it means for the most vulnerable New Yorkers,” he said.

Torres says establishments that don’t accept cash could be discriminating against communities that have difficulty accessing credit cards. Violators would face fines of up to $250 for a first offense and up to $500 for additional violations.

“If you have no documentation or credit history or legal address than you have no means of purchasing goods and services,” he said. “Credit and debit can be an option but it should not be the only option, consumers should be able to chose their preferred method of payment.”

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Some people in the Financial District are on board with the cashless ban.

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“It’s a free world, let people do what they want to do,” said Brooklyn-resident Roy Hoiles.

On the other side, Pete Corrigan won’t go anywhere that doesn’t take bills and coins.

“If I have cash on me I’d just rather use the cash, not use my card, because I’ve also had my identity stolen once or twice at these little bodegas in the city,” he said.

The rise in identity theft is one of the reasons New Yorkers seem to be rallying behind the bill. The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs says 25 percent of households in the city are underbanked, meaning they keep all their funds outside financial institutions.

Among the New York shops that have gone cashless are Dig Inn, Sweetgreen and Mulberry and Vine.

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Torres hopes that, if passed, the bill would be in effect by the end of this year.