As debates around cash and card payments continue, what should businesses offer?
Research from 2022 found 47% of Irish businesses believe they will go fully cashless in the next 10 years.
The most support for card-only transactions was in Dublin, while only 36% of Donegal businesses were confident about going cashless.
Newstalk reporter Elaine Smith spoke to people about the prospect of a ‘cashless society’.
“What about the older generation that just work with cash? They don’t understand banking online,” one woman said. “And cash is king.”
“Businesses should not be allowed to refuse payment,” one man said. “There should be a choice in every establishment.”
One small business owner said businesses should have the right to make their own decisions.
“If it’s cheaper for card transactions, then I do think people have the right to refuse,” she said. “But you have to think of older generations... it’s a lose-lose situation.”
"We need to be inclusive"
Convenience Store and Newsagents Association CEO Vincent Jennings told The Pat Kenny Show businesses have to accept both cash and card transactions.
“We have societal obligations when we’re running a business and we need to be inclusive,” he said.
“There’s people on low income, who don’t access banking, people who have difficulties with digital or financial literacy.”
Mr Jennings also suggested the ability to use cash is important for people who are trying to protect their privacy.
“People who use cards can have their purchases tracked,” he said. “We have to be very aware that there are people under coercive control, domestic abuse victims, who can certainly do without their every move being tracked.”
Costs of cash and card
Mr Jennings, however, also said there are also costs associated with only accepting cash, even though most believe card payments are more expensive for businesses.
“The banks have made sure through charges for lodgment of coins and notes that there is significant cost involved there as well,” he said.
Mr Jennings also acknowledged card machines may regularly malfunction, including last week.
“People had been to businesses, consumed meals, bought petrol or diesel,” he said. “And cards were just not being processed. That happens with regularity and the levels are quite significant.”
Consumer and business "contracts"
Solicitor Seán Nolan said the issue of contact-free trade is “highly regulated”.
“Last year we saw the Consumer Rights Act’s biggest reforms in 50 years,” he said. “[However], the payment mechanisms to consumers is not regulated by statute - the position of the consumer is forced to be governed by the general contract [from the business].”
He said the last few years have seen changes in attitude towards cash and cards.
“COVID, disappearance of banks in several areas, and quite frankly, handing in cash, counting cash and returns on cash require labour and time of the consumer,” he said.
Mr Nolan said businesses still have the right to use cash or cards only - if a consumer uses a business, they are tacitly accepting that contract of payment.
He said the best practice for businesses is to make it clear they are cash-only or cashless before a consumer purchases anything, particularly in restaurants.
“Good restaurants would probably have all the terms and conditions on a website,” he said. “The point is really easily understood.”
“Some businesses that require cash will make a prominent display at point of entry... get that point across before the contract is in place.”