Story at a glance

  • King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles introduced a proposal that would ban cashless retailers in parts of the county.

  • Under the proposal, retailers in unincorporated parts of King County, which is home to the cities of Seattle and Bellevue, would be required to accept cash payments of up to $250 for a single transaction.  

  • The proposal would also prevent businesses from charging cash-paying customers more for goods and services.  

A Seattle-area lawmaker has introduced a new proposal aimed at banning cashless retailers.  

The proposal, introduced by Metropolitan King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, would require retailers in non-incorporated parts of the county to accept cash payments of up to $250 for a single transaction.  

Under the proposal, businesses would also be barred from charging cash-paying customers a higher price for goods and services.  

“In recent years, many retailers have moved toward a cashless model of payment, citing improved technology, including tap-to-pay mobile applications and the emergence of “just walk out” payment technology, as well as the safety concerns of storing and handling cash,” the proposal states.  

Indeed, more U.S. adults have opted to go cashless over the last decade years with four out of every 10 people reporting that none of their purchases in a week are paid for using cash, according to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center.  

In 2018, only 29 percent of U.S. adults said they did not use cash to pay for a single transaction in a typical week.  

But cashless payments pose a dilemma for those who do not have a bank account, credit card, or other typical financial services. People that lack these services are also referred to as unbanked.  

“People who are unbanked or underbanked, as well as those who might prefer to use cash for some purchases, might find it difficult to purchase from retailers that use a cashless model and might be limited in the food, consumer goods and consumer services they can procure” the proposal adds.  

About 2 percent of Washington state residents are unbanked or roughly 67,000 people.  

That number is expected to rise to 3.1 percent over the next five years, according to a 2021 FDIC Household Survey.  

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