Is Cash Dead? 10 Places You’ll Still Need It

There’s been a lot of talk about the slow, inevitable demise of cash.

The most recent Visa commercials only serve to reinforce the point that everything stops when someone pulls out bills instead of swiping some plastic.

I have to admit – it’s rare for our family to carry cash on our person on a daily basis. Rare is also the case where we’re required to use cash.

But there are still situations where plastic won’t get you very far. Before you dump cash for good and take on a fully-plasticized life, make note of these 10 cases:

  1. Tolls. Pre-paid tolls have become the trendy way to speed up and reduce hassle in travel, but if you need to stop and pay, you’ll need to do so with cash (and a lot of the time – coins).
  2. Cash-only food places. There aren’t too many of these left, but some of the best local pizzerias and diners and holes-in-the-wall have remained as cash-only businesses.
  3. Repair service providers. The gentleman that comes to repair your washing machine will probably not honor your credit card.
  4. Stores with minimum limits. Because of fees imposed on vendors for each card transaction, many businesses have established a minimum limit for credit purchases, such as $5 or $10.
  5. Flea/Farmers markets. Depending on the how “corporate” your market is and where it’s located, the vendors may or may not accept cards.
  6. Food/street vendors. That New York hot dog vendor, or the food stand at your community softball park will only take cash.
  7. Taxis. Although this too is now changing, paying your taxi driver with cash is still the accepted method of choice.
  8. Hired services. The babysitter from three houses down doesn’t carry a credit cash machine with her. Or the hairdresser who comes over to your house to style your bridesmaids before a wedding. You’ll need cash to pay them.
  9. Local fundraisers/events. Your town’s high school will want cash for entry to their latest concert. So will the team of teenagers who want to wash your car to raise money for a cause.
  10. Tipping. Restaurants have taken care of this by including a line on the bill, but tipping the valet driver or bellhop with a card may prove difficult.

There are many reasons why a business may choose not to accept plastic – from having to buy extra equipment and other logistics, to the fees charged for every transaction, to the speed of processing (can you imagine if everyone paid tolls by credit?), and even going as far as keeping some income off the books. (Gasp! Yes, illegal, but people still do this.)

Note: A lot of the places listed will take checks, but who carries those around anymore either?

Whatever the reason, as long as the requirements of the particular establishment are clearly posted, I don’t usually have a problem with paying cash.

Just remember to carry some cash with you, because you never know when you’ll need it, and fortunately or unfortunately – cash is not quite dead yet!

13 thoughts on “Is Cash Dead? 10 Places You’ll Still Need It

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  2. I very seldom use cash and I haven’t used a personal check in years. For me it comes down to the basic inconvenience of needing to go to the ATM. As a disabled person it makes it that much harder.

    I have also found that I spend less when I use my debit card or credit card. Cash seems to always disappear, whereas I have records for my debit card and credit card usage. I have a lot of, “oh yeah, I forgot about that expense,” moments 🙂

    1. We’re in the same boat with the spending and cash use, although I did enjoy the 3-4 months where we used ONLY cash. That was pretty eye-opening too.

  3. We are just the opposite of Mark…we don’t own credit cards (yes, we do own debit cards), but we have been putting cash in envelopes each month for years and it has worked well for us. We “can’t” overspend because when the envelope is empty, we are through spending for that particular category until the next month. By the way, we don’t use ATM’s either.

    1. I think that’s a fantastic method, Joe. For the last 6 months, we’ve done this with Mvelopes, which lets us avoid storing a lot of cash around and use a debit card. But the system is identical, and as you well know – it works well.

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  5. We never carry cash. Ever.

    We went to the beach in July and unexpectedly hit a toll bridge. The signs were so close to the toll that we had no option but to go forward. We couldn’t turn around — or stop to get change some place.

    I hoped they took debit or credit, alas they did not.

    The woman was cheerful and said it happens all the time — more often to residents than visitors (I think she was trying to make me feel better). We had to mail in a $2.50 check to the transportation department when we got home from vacation. How silly is that?

    1. I had a similar experience with getting on the highway and realizing I didn’t have cash. I pulled over a few hundred yards from the toll booths and searched through the car for 10 minutes for change.

      I ended up paying the $2.50 toll with dimes and nickels (and a few pennies, I think). I had just enough.

      Another time, I wasn’t paying attention and drove through the pre-paid lanes. And had to mail in a check for $1.00…yes, a little silly. I guess that’s what I get. 🙂

  6. How about gardener or teenagers who does your lawn mowing, baby sitter, plumber, electrians etc. (They may take check) but cash is works better for those services.

    We have a gas station near by, that gives 7 cents per gal. discount of gas. It works for them and us too.


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