This summer, as roller coasters rumble and crowds line up at Michigan’s Adventure, one thing will be different: the amusement park will be cashless.
Michigan’s Adventure joins a growing trend of Michigan businesses, venues and organizations eliminating cash transactions. But don’t worry, the cash isn’t going away.
Three major Detroit venues – Comerica Park, Little Caesars Arena and the Fox Theater – have recently run out of cash and the LMCU Ballpark near Grand Rapids announced plans to make the transition this summer. They say going cashless is safer, safer and faster for customers.
Laure Bollenbach, communications manager for Michigan’s Adventure, said there are benefits to the park as well.
“There is no need to pay for armored vehicles to transport money from one side of the parks to the other. No more time and work spent counting cash,” she wrote in an email. “And from a practical standpoint, it’s getting harder and harder to find coins.”
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Cash payments have been steadily declining in the United States, likely accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as cash transactions fell between 26% and 19% between 2019 and 2020, according to the latest data from the Federal Reserve.
Square, a leading payment system, reported that cash transactions in corporate America it continued to fall another 8.3% last year.
“The changing payment landscape during the pandemic accelerated the shift in preferences from cash to credit and debit cards, a trend that had been turning rather slowly over the five years leading up to 2020,” Kelsey Coyle, Laura Kim and Shaun O’Brien of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in a report last year.
Even though cash is becoming less common among American consumers, critics say it shouldn’t be eliminated entirely because it puts people without bank accounts at a disadvantage. And several states, including Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island, have banned businesses from going completely cashless.
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About 5.7% of Michiganders are unbanked, according to an FDIC survey, and another 15.2% are unbanked, meaning people who have accounts but typically rely on check cashing services or payday loans. Nationally, these rates are highest among low-income, black, Hispanic, and Native American households, and households headed by someone with a disability.
That’s why some Michigan cashless businesses have turned to card kiosks, offering a solution for cash-only customers.
Scattered throughout Little Caesars Arena, Michigan’s largest indoor arena, there are card machines for people to exchange cash for a prepaid card at no additional cost. At Grand Valley State University, which completed a year-long transition to becoming a cashless campus in January, similar kiosks are available for students and staff who do carry cash.
“Cash is obviously not going to go away,” said Craig Wieschhorster, associate vice president of business and finance for Grand Valley.
As one of the first Michigan universities to completely go cashless, Wieschhorster says it makes operations more efficient and lowers the risk of potential fraud.
“With cashless, you have more security about each transaction in terms of being able to count dollar for dollar on those transactions,” he said.
A recent study of The University of Georgia suggests getting rid of cash transactions, which are anonymous and difficult to trace, could help reduce tax evasion. Ultimately, this could lead to higher government revenue and benefit ordinary Americans.
“Our paper showed that, in principle, you could eliminate cash and lower income and capital tax rates in such a way that the economy, people’s well-being, would generally improve,” said Dr. William Lastrapes , one of the researchers at the University of Georgia. and professor of economics, in a written response to MLive.
Eliminating cash would negatively affect people who only carry cash, mostly low-income Americans, Lastrapes said, but suggested getting rid of large bills like $50 and $100, commonly used in the “underground economy.”
“Probably the best way to not impose large currency suppression costs on low-income and older Americans would be to eliminate only the large bills, at least in the short term,” he said.
The United States is unlikely to run out of cash any time soon, according to Lastrapes, and most Americans agree. A survey by Square found that 73% of consumers and 68% of business owners do not foresee a future without cash.
“As people learn new and better ways to transact, the demand for cash is likely to continue to fall,” Lastrapes said.
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