New York City votes to ban ‘cashless’ stores in potential setback for Visa, MasterCard

The future of retail is supposed to include “cashless” stores, where shoppers pay with a swipe, or tap, of their credit or debit card – or with their smartphones.

But New York City lawmakers don’t seem to be buying in.

The City Council in America’s largest city voted 43-3 on Thursday on a bill requiring that all stores accept old-fashioned greenbacks for payment in addition to the electronic-based methods.

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Their rationale for joining San Francisco and Philadelphia, as well as the states of New Jersey and Massachusetts, in opposing cashless shopping: It’s unfair to residents who don’t have bank accounts or to those who simply prefer cash.

“Whatever your reasons, consumers should have the power to choose their preferred method of payment,” City Councilman Ritchie Torres, a Bronx Democrat who sponsored the legislation, said before the vote, according to the Associated Press.

“Whatever your reasons, consumers should have the power to choose their preferred method of payment.”

— Ritchie Torres, New York City councilman

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Many businesses had argued that cashless shopping helped improve safety at stores because cashiers would not have to handle cash and managers would not have to take cash deposits to a bank, risking loss or theft.

Even with the expanding use of cards and phones, cash remains king, according to Bloomberg. Paper money is used for nearly a third of U.S. purchases, with debit and credit cards accounting for 31 percent and 28 percent, respectively, the report said.

Nevertheless, buying with Visa, MasterCard or other cards hit a record $18.7 trillion in 2018, the outlet reported.

In Sweden, cashless retail is more popular. Only 1 in 4 Swedes use cash at least once a week, NPR reported last year.

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio is said to support the “cashless” ban – which would mean changes for businesses such as Founders Table, which operates 18 cashless Chopt salad restaurants in the city and 17 cashless Dos Toros Mexican restaurants, according to the AP.

“We are proud to do business in NYC and will of course comply with all NYC laws and statutes,” Nick Marsh, CEO of Founders Table, said in a statement.

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“It's an ease-of-use sort of thing, to make it go faster,” Chopt customer and card user Mary LeSage told the AP in Manhattan. “I’ve seen this line go all the way around there. But on the other hand, I do think it’s wrong to bar people from food because they don’t have the necessary resources. If it takes me five minutes longer to get lunch, that’s fine if it means everyone can get food.”

Philadelphia passed its cashless ban last year, with San Francisco and New Jersey following soon after. Massachusetts was far ahead of them, passing its ban nearly 40 years ago, the AP reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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