LUBBOCK, Texas — More than half of Americans have been avoiding cash during the pandemic, and a majority plans to quit using it entirely even after the pandemic is over, a new study finds.
“Everything in our world is so digitized. It only makes sense that our money goes that same way. Then COVID-19 hit, then the coin shortage hit, and it kind of propelled that idea forward,” Kylie Moore, a content strategist for Digital Third Coast who spearheaded the study’s research said.
The study from Travis Credit Union revealed that 58 percent of Americans plan to stop using cash after the pandemic, and 7 in 10 Americans see a “completely cashless future.” Most participants said that they quit using cash due to health concerns that it was less hygienic than using a credit card, while others said it was for convenience.
However, for local businesses, the concept of going “cashless” has both its pros and cons. Managing partner of River Smith’s Chicken & Catfish, Chris Berry, said that the restaurant usually has a 50/50 split between cash and credit card in sales, but lately, he’s seen a drop in customers paying with paper and an increase in those paying with a card.
“[Cards are] quicker for business most of the time and less propensity for error,” Berry said.
He also said that having fewer dollars in the cash register made them less likely to be robbed. However, he emphasized it would take a while before his restaurant was ready to stop accepting dollars and coins.
“Being in the restaurant business for so long, you see cash all the time whether it’s tips or a customer paying or every now and then, [paying] seasonal employees that just work a couple of days a year,” Berry said.
According to the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, Americans’ use of cash has been decreasing for years, but the pandemic gave the “inevitable” trend a final push.
“I had never seen a cashless operation until COVID-19 started,” Eddie McBride, President and CEO of the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce said.
McBride said that he’s seen several fast-food businesses in Lubbock refuse to accept cash to avoid spreading germs in the last few months. However, he added that not every society is built to handle going cashless.
He also warned that while more “efficient,” this trend also has several risks, including threats to people’s cybersecurity and privacy and even potential financial issues for small businesses who can’t afford to buy the extra equipment going cashless would require.
“Those businesses, very small businesses that have tight margins, not much overhead, low-income type of operations — it will put some of them out of business,” McBride said.
A “cashless future” could also cause problems for the three in 10 Americans who reportedly don’t own a credit card.