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Cashless business trend is growing, but some say it's discriminatory

Some community advocates say going cashless is discriminatory, as cashless services aren’t available to people without bank accounts.

HERSHEY, Pa. — Hersheypark is going cashless this spring. 

It joins a trend of companies dropping coins and bills for credit and debit card payments.

Companies see several benefits to going cashless, according to Yeva Nersisyan, economics professor at F&M College. 

Since the pandemic, many view contactless payments as more sanitary. Most importantly, processing cash payments is often costlier than processing electronic payments.

Some community advocates, however, say going cashless is discriminatory, as cashless services aren’t available to people without bank accounts.

Unbanked people—those without a checking or savings account—are a small but significant group. It includes 5.4 percent of Americans or about 7.1 million people, according to data from the FDIC.

“It's not easy to be poor and to have a bank account in the United States,” said Nersisyan. “You often need to have a minimum balance in your bank account; otherwise you'll be paying fees.”

Cash is still king in places like Philadelphia and New Jersey, which have banned most stores from going cashless in an effort not to exclude the unbanked.

Though well intentioned, economists warned such laws don’t necessarily help unbanked people. As many businesses are exempt from the laws, unbanked people are still excluded from some services.

“I would say some kind of a free checking account system that European nations have would be a more appropriate response, but that cannot be done at the local level,” Nersisyan said.

Instead, Harrisburg University economics professor Terrill Frantz suggests offering services and support so more people can pay digitally.

Several fintech startups have launched apps for mobile banking and payments, sometimes even without opening a bank account.
“It will take time, but eventually people will adapt to a cashless society wholeheartedly and it will include everyone.

Hersheypark will still be accessible to those without a credit or debit card, who can purchase Visa gift cards at cash-to-card kiosks stationed throughout the park. They can also buy a Hersheypark e-gift card and meal vouchers online ahead of their visit.

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