For Christmas I took my parents dog-sledding in Maine, and the company was cash only. I was somewhat annoyed since it was $150/person, which meant a $450 cash transaction. Seriously? Oh well. It’s Maine. We stopped at the local Mallard Mart on the way so I could make the requisite withdrawal.

But then something got me about that crisp stack of bills. I counted it a few times. I organized it so all the heads faced in the same direction. I separated it into different sections so I wouldn’t have to count it again. Then I counted it again. The best was when I actually paid. “Here you go. Yeah, don’t worry, it’s all there (wink).” I was a high roller for the day.

Having enjoyed this experience, I really wanted to be cardless this week. I never withdraw (or spend!) that kind of cash that freely, but I want to. Plus, cash is the default means of exchange. Without cash, I could find myself in a bind. But with cash, I can do everything I can do with cards and then some… right? Alas, I drew cashless.

Well, it’s Thursday night, and I almost forgot to even do this blog post because going cashless has been so entirely uneventful. I was hoping for some high drama. Maybe a dirty look from the Tedeschi clerk when I pulled out my credit card for the $1.99 bag of popcorn. Or at least some hesitation from my classmate when I asked if she could spot me my coffee this week. But no… all I got was an enthusiastic “of course!” each time.

Did I even actually buy anything this week? Surely that must be it – it wasn’t eventful because I barely bought anything. So, I checked my credit card statement. Among groceries, CVS, and other innocuous things for which I could just as easily have paid cash, this is the activity I found:

  • Comcast auto-charge
  • Amazon music downloads
  • Tricycle for my nephew purchased on Amazon (my grandmother went store to store looking for this specific one and couldn’t find it)
  • iTunes (iPhone Apps)
  • Rewards redemption credit (-$98!)
  • Airline ticket
  • Verizon auto-charge

I guess technically I could have gone to Comcast and Verizon to pay my bills, but as for the rest, I honestly don’t know how I would have paid for them without my cards… not to mention the free (at least free to me) $98. And further down the statement from earlier in the month was my microfinance class investment – yet another transaction I couldn’t have made in cash.

Hmm. I guess I got lucky drawing cashless after all.

But all this has me wondering… is cash really the default? And if not, what does that mean for those without access to alternatives? In the real world (as opposed to the smackdown), people with cards also have access to cash. But not everyone with cash has access to cards. And for that reason I wonder if it isn’t just a little concerning that it’s arguably become easier to live off cards than cash.


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