Despite recent declines in the unbanked population, Evanston Ald. Devon Reid (8th) wants to force local stores to accept cash for all retail transactions.

The latest FDIC survey says 5.4% of people in the Chicago metro area were unbanked last year — down from 7.3% in 2019.

That’s slightly higher than the 4.5% nationwide rate of unbanked households. Lower-income and minority populations tend to have higher than average rates of non-participation in the banking system.

Unbanked rates specific to Evanston were not available from the survey.

Federal officials had feared that the pandemic would force more low-income individuals out of the banking system, but instead, the opposite happened, a trend that was seen worldwide.

The pandemic also accelerated the trend of government agencies using prepaid cards to make payments to recipients of government benefit programs.

No federal law mandates that merchants accept cash. New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and the states of Colorado and New Jersey have adopted bans on cashless stores in recent years, but such legislation has failed in many other states, including Illinois.

Reid’s proposal does not cite any instances of Evanston stores refusing to accept cash. Reports indicate that two national retailers that tried the approach — Amazon Go stores and the Sweetgreen fast-casual salad chain — have reversed their policies.

In a survey last year by the Square online payment processing service, 85% of sellers who accept cash said they never plan to stop taking it.

A Gallup survey this summer indicates sharply fewer Americans use cash to make purchases than did so five years ago and 64% think it’s likely the U.S. will become a cashless society at some point during their lives.

Reid’s proposal would encourage residents to report refusals to accept cash to 311 and would impose fines of up to $1,500.

The proposal does offer one non-cash option for merchants — permitting them to install machines that exchange cash for pre-paid gift cards without charging a fee.

It also would allow merchants to refuse accept bills larger than $20s and to refuse to take cash payments for telephone, mail or internet-based transactions, unless the payment takes place at the store.

The City Council’s Human Services Committee is scheduled to take action on Reid’s proposal Monday night.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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16 Comments

  1. Another Reid-iculous idea from Devon. Stop making life harder for local businesses. We have enough storefront vacancies. The city council needs to just start ignoring this guy.

  2. Another waste of time when there are actual problems to address. I bet there isn’t a single merchant in Evanston that refuses cash.

  3. There are reasons some retailers have gone cashless. I hope the Human Services Committee discusses those reasons and not only the reasons that some people want to take away that option.

  4. UNbanked, UNhoused, UNclothed, UNtaxed….UNBELIEVABLE how much of City Council’s and Commissions’ time is wasted on Reid’s questionable ideas that either impact such a small % of Evanstonians or allegedly solve a nonexistent problem. His true motivations are becoming increasingly clear with every new whacko idea he dreams up.

  5. Recently, I went to a Whole Foods store to buy a few items; I only had cash with me. When I went to checkout, I was told to go to another lane as they were out of cash; the same thing happened at that register. I then went to customer service and was told that they wouldn’t be able to do any cash transactions until the following week! As I was in the process of handing over my few items and leaving, they stopped me and told me to just keep everything ….free of charge! If this is the new normal, I’m in!

  6. If a retailer doesn’t accept cash and a customer doesn’t like the cashless policy, then the customer can take his/her business elsewhere. Government shouldn’t solve all of the world’s problems, Ald. Reid, especially when there doesn’t seem to be much of a problem to being with.

  7. Ok Reid. Playtime’s over. I’m glad you’re getting an amusement off of people’s reactions with these fake proposals. Why don’t you resign and let someone who is serious take your job. Zanies could use some good comedians. Have you looked into that?

    1. RAC – you hit the nail on the head. Time to give Devon a time out. Have him sit in a corner quietly, instead of crying and stamping his feet for attention.

  8. According to a sign in the window, Hewn doesn’t accept cash as a way to prevent theft and protect employees, as well as speed up transactions (which people in line outside the bakery must appreciate.)

  9. It’s unfortunate that Devon Reid has made so many off the wall proposals, which makes it hard for people to take anything he says/does seriously. This is one I actually agree with. It’s an access issue. Over the summer I was at a cashless venue and there was a guy who sheepishly asked if I could buy him a $5 food item with my credit card and he gave me the cash. He was obviously embarrassed. I’m not willing to say that it’s acceptable to deny access because it’s “only” 5.4% of the population who is unbanked. Imagine all the things you do with your credit or debit card that would become difficult or impossible if you didn’t have them. Then imagine that you can’t even get something to eat because of it. I know I probably sound extreme since it sounds like there aren’t many Evanston businesses not accepting cash, but some of the responses I see are lacking in humanity.

    1. I think what is lacking in these responses isn’t humanity but rather patience, which has been lost with Reid’s constant, misguided, and outlandish proposals.

      Where is the problem statement, analysis, statistics, and facts to support the need and benefits of his numerous proposals?

      My boss would fire me if I conducted myself like Reid.

      1. I can definitely appreciate the impatience. I roll my eyes whenever I see a headline about a new issue Reid is raising. It’s kind of the point I was trying to make. He has made it impossible for people to take him seriously. But I stand by my comment about lack of humanity. Nobody seemed to think it was worth considering our community members who are cash-only. But maybe it’s just that the wrong person raised the issue, which doesn’t seem so outlandish to me (unlike many of his other ideas).

  10. Cash is the last remaining currency that cannot be tracked. In today’s world where every single move we make, every sound we make, every transaction we make, etc is tracked and monitored.

    They can’t do that with cash. It’s untraceable. Use more cash! It’ll help save businesses on CC processing costs on top of other things. They want to eliminate cash so they can tax us for every single little thing we do. You have to keep cash alive, it’s one of the last actual freedoms we have remaining.

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