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Should businesses be required to accept cash? NC House bill says yes

A sign alerts customers that cash is not accepted at a shop in San Francisco last year. The city subsequently banned businesses from rejecting cash.
Jeff Chiu
A sign alerts customers that cash is not accepted at a shop in San Francisco last year.

N.C. House lawmakers want to stop businesses from refusing to accept cash payments.

Some shops and restaurants have gone cashless, requiring people to pay with a credit card. The practice caught on during the COVID-19 pandemic as merchants opted for contactless payments to reduce the spread of the virus.

But Rep. Brenden Jones, R-Columbus, says that discriminates against people who don’t have access to a bank account.

“Folks have went in to get things as simple as a ham sandwich and a Coke with $5, and they’ve been turned away,” he said. “This is just saying the paper tender was, by the federal government, legal tender for all debts public and private.”

Businesses wouldn’t be required to accept bills larger than $50, and they wouldn’t be allowed to charge customers using cash a higher price than those paying with a card. The mandates wouldn’t apply to vending machines or other self-service transactions where an employee isn’t present to make change.

House Bill 20 passed its first committee hearing on Thursday without any opposition.

It was one of several finance-related bills that House committees approved on Thursday morning. Among the others:

  • House Bill 564, titled the “Second Amendment Financial Privacy Act,” would ban credit card processors from using merchant codes that would show someone made a purchase from a gun store or dealer. Democrats objected, saying the requirement could limit the information available to law enforcement investigating a gun crime. But the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Reece Pyrtle, R-Rockingham and a former police chief, said it’s a “slippery slope” to have private companies collecting that data.
  • House Bill 781, titled the “Fair Access to Financial Services Act,” would ban financial institutions from denying service based on a customer’s political or moral views. Rep. Deb Butler, D-New Hanover, questioned whether such discrimination actually occurs. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jennifer Balkcom, R-Henderson, said she’s heard from pawn shops and gun businesses that had trouble accessing financial services.
  • House Bill 690 would prohibit state government from accepting payments using cryptocurrency. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mark Brody, R-Union, said he’s concerned about how to convert cryptocurrency payments into dollar amounts. “It can change with the market, and especially with something like Bitcoin … it can fluctuate,” he said.
Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.
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