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Three Dozen+ Consumer Groups Back Payment Choice Act

Rep. Donald Payne, Jr.106

Cannon HOB

Washington, DC 20515

Rep. Sylvia Garcia

1620 Longworth HOB

Washington, D.C. 20515

Rep. Chris Smith

2373 Rayburn HOB

Washington, D.C. 20515

August 5, 2021

Re: Support for the Payment Choice Act of 2021 (H.R. 4395)

Dear Representatives Payne, Smith and Garcia,

Group Support 2021 Payment Choice Act
Download PDF • 94KB

As advocates for the rights and interests of U.S. consumers, we are writing to express

our support for the Payment Choice Act (H.R. 4395)—legislation you have introduced as

original co-sponsors to preserve the option for people to pay for purchases with cash at

retail locations.

According to the FDIC’s Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2020

(May 2021),1 18% of adults in the U.S. are unbanked or underbanked, meaning

approximately 37 million adults may lack access to digital forms of payment, including

credit or debit cards. This problem is worse for minority households; approximately 13%

of Black households and 9% of Hispanic households had no bank accounts at all in 2020,

according to the FDIC report. Adults with less education and adults with lower income

were more likely to be underbanked than the population as a whole. Nearly one-fourth

of those with less than a high school degree and 21% of those with incomes less than

$25,000 were underbanked.

All consumers should have the freedom to choose to pay with cash at grocery stores,

restaurants, and businesses. Unbanked and underbanked consumers have little access

to noncash forms of payment, with the possible exception of prepaid cards.

Furthermore, when consumers are forced to pay for goods and services in cashless

transactions, they (as well as the businesses where they shop) are also often forced to

incur added expenses in the form of network and transaction fees.

Another concern is that noncash transactions generate vast amounts of data, recording

the time, date, location, amount, and subject of each consumer’s purchase. Those data

are available to digital marketers and advertisers who are engaged in developing and

refining increasingly sophisticated techniques to identify and target potential customers.

Paying with cash provides consumers with significantly more privacy than do electronic

forms of payment. That is why even consumers who have credit and debit cards

sometimes prefer to pay with cash.

A 2021 study sponsored by Cardtronics, independently produced by Javelin Strategy &

Research,2 found that during the pandemic, cash rebounded faster than other payment

methods and remained the top way to make a purchase throughout 2020. Among

underbanked consumers, cash usage was significantly higher and steadier than among

average consumers, remaining at 78% usage throughout 2020, significantly higher than

the credit card (59%) and debit card (53%) usage seen in October 2020. The study

concluded that cash’s standing has remained strong—the majority of consumers

surveyed agreed that: cash protects my privacy and financial security (66%); allowing

people to pay in cash is important for society (63%); cash is safe to use (58%); cash is as

important today as it ever was (54%); cash is often the easiest way to pay (44%).

To protect consumers from discrimination and ensure that they have choices in

payment methods, some cities and states have enacted laws or ordinances3 that bar

brick-and-mortar retail stores from refusing to accept cash. States such as New Jersey,

Massachusetts and Rhode Island have laws in place that prohibit businesses from

banning cash. San Francisco, Philadelphia, and New York City also have passed similar


Some have used the pandemic as an excuse for not accepting cash, claiming it is unsafe.

Expert sources, however, have stated that currency does not present any increased risk

of COVID-19 transmission compared to plastic payment cards. According to a 2013 study

published in the Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology,4 American

currency, a porous surface, had an extremely low rate of virus transfer efficiency:

between 0.05% and 0.2%. Nonporous surfaces, such as hard plastic countertops and

credit card readers, had a transmission efficiency rate of up to 79.5 percent. Neither the

World Health Organization (WHO) nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

(CDC) have concluded5 that cash presents any more danger than credit cards or other

forms of payment.

What is true about the pandemic is that the economic dislocations it has caused have

fallen most directly and most harshly on the marginalized segments of our society: low-income

populations, people in inner-city neighborhoods and in rural areas, the

unemployed and underemployed, the elderly, and racial and ethnic minorities. It is

crucial for people to be able to obtain necessities at their local stores and restaurants

without being turned away because they want to pay with cash.

The enactment of the Payment Choice Act will ensure that all consumers in the United

States can make purchases in retail stores and restaurants using the payment methods

of their choice. We appreciate your leadership on this important issue and urge your

colleagues in Congress to support this legislation.

Very truly yours,

Affirm Merit

Alaska PIRG

Americans for Financial Reform

Center for Economic Integrity

Chicago Consumer Coalition

Chinese American Museum of Chicago

CLAP Community Lead Advocacy Program

Columbia Consumer Education Council

Connecticut Legal Services, Inc.

Consumer Action

Consumer Federation of America

Consumer Federation of California

Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety

Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council, Inc.

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)

Empire Justice Center

Haven Neighborhood Services

Hawaii Consumers

Housing and Family Services of Greater New York

Kentucky Equal Justice Center

Legal Aid Justice Center

Mountain State Justice

Multi-Cultural Development Center

National Association of Consumer Advocates

National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low income clients)

National Fair Housing Alliance

National Network to End Domestic Violence

Oakland Privacy

Public Justice

Public Justice Center

R.A.A. - Ready, Aim, Advocate

Strike Debt Bay Area

The Collaborative NC

The Fairmont-Morgantown Housing Authority


The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy

Thrive Collective, LLC

University of Wisconsin Consumer Law Clinic


1 Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2020 (May 2012), available at


2 Cardtronics, 2021 U.S. Health of Cash Study (February 2020), available at

3 McKenzie Sadeghi, "Fact check: No US law requires businesses to take cash, but local laws may mandate

it,” USA Today (Sept. 16, 2020), available at


4 Transfer Efficiency of Bacteria and Viruses from Porous and Nonporous Fomites to Fingers under

Different Relative Humidity Conditions (Sept. 15, 2013), available at

5 Meera Jagannathan, “World Health Organization: We did NOT say that cash was transmitting

coronavirus,” MarketWatch (March 9, 2020), available at



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