The Increase of Cashless Payment
SUNAINA TIPERNENI '23
A little boy walks into an ice cream shop, clutching his pocket money. He asks for a chocolate scoop and is about to pay, only to leave disappointed when he hears that the store doesn’t accept cash. It seems like paying by tap is the newest thing that everybody is doing: simply hover your mobile device or credit card near a sensor, and you’ve reduced the onerous time spent at a cash register. Despite its convenience, however, contactless payment can harm certain communities. By reducing access to public transportation and opportunities to develop financial literacy, cashless technology excludes its vulnerable and its youth, reflecting how technology can often be a sign of privilege, not progress.
Consider the New York Transit’s shift to contactless payment: instead of using the longstanding metro cards, people must now tap their phones to pay before walking through the entry bars. Convenient, right? Not for everyone. According to Science Direct, the homeless “spend about 36% of their annual budgets on transportation alone.” Homeless people rely on public transit to go to important places like shelters and medical centers and without it, they lack the resources to survive or rebuild their lives, as in the case of those who the pandemic impacted. Since homeless people don’t have addresses—a requirement for most credit and debit cards—they can’t tap into the metro payment system. Public transportation should be accessible to everyone, so being unable to pay for it with cash discriminates against those who have nothing but cash.
Cashless pay also harms children. For kids, cash represents increased responsibility, and using it makes them feel independent and mature. Having physical money that you can count and separate helps young people to learn about budgeting and the value of money. Conversely, exclusively saving money digitally takes away the recognition of spending. Financial literacy, according to CNBC, is crucial for building a budget, preparing for emergencies, and saving for major investments like education and homes down the line. Thus, it’s important to encourage children to build a healthy relationship with tangible money so they can develop responsible spending habits.
While the convenience economy might not be a problem for most people, the influx in stores that don’t accept cash and cashless pay’s effects reveal that technology is a privilege, which we sometimes take for granted. As time goes on, society will become more and more digitally oriented. Thus, it’s time to consider if the digital age’s advancements are leaving some people behind.