August 6, 2020

This Legislation Could Force Stores to Take Your Cash

Ms. Pou, who represents the Paterson area, said that she had many constituents who lack bank accounts, including low-income families deterred by fees and minimum balance requirements. (A report by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in 2017 estimated that 6.5 percent of American households were “unbanked.”) Older adults also may not have electronic payments set up, or be comfortable using them, she noted.

The penalties in the proposed bills range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. In the New Jersey bill, they could go up to $5,000 for a second offense. A spokesman said the governor was considering whether to sign the legislation.

Ms. Pou said that business groups and Amazon had expressed opposition to the bill, and she worked with businesses to include exceptions, including for airports, parking facilities, car rental companies and any “internet-based transaction.”

She added that she had asked Amazon, which is operating five pop-up stores and one bookstore in New Jersey, to come up with ideas for how they could serve those without a bank account, but that she did not hear back. Amazon declined to comment.

Massachusetts already has a little-known law requiring retail stores to accept both cash and credit. There have been calls for the legislature to clarify whether the law, approved in 1978, applies to restaurants.

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