Log In

Reset Password

Going cashless a safe bet for all involved

There was a dust-up earlier this month when Lansford Borough Council decided to go cashless when it comes to paying sanitation and sewage transmission fees.

In a split vote, the seven member board approved the plan, which takes effect July 1.

After that date, payments via check, money order or credit/debit card will be accepted.

The council majority made their decision citing safety and security issues for the office staff. Two secretaries are usually on the job during normal business hours. They handle myriad tasks involved with the day-to-day operation of borough affairs.

And the four voters in favor believed for the most part that handling cash shouldn’t be among them.

After all, the responsibilities of a cash drawer can be a bit daunting at times. And there’s always the possibility of an in-office attempted robbery that could threaten lives.

From that standpoint, it seems that going cashless makes perfect sense. Besides, it’s not an uncommon practice here in Carbon County.

Many local governments already encourage electronic methods to pay bills. They take payments via checks and money orders, too. Weatherly, for example, won’t accept cash for anything.

In Lehighton, walk-ins can pay their electric bills in person, but whether they take cash isn’t readily available on their website. They do, however, ask that no cash be left in drop-box payments.

Naysayers have countered those requirements with a number of arguments, among them:

• Not accepting cash is illegal. It couldn’t be farther from the truth. The federal government calls our money “legal tender,” leading many to believe it has to be accepted anywhere. Not necessarily. There’s no law on the books that says going cashless is a crime. States and cities can make laws forbidding cashless transactions. Pennsylvania doesn’t have that law, but Philadelphia does.

• People don’t have bank accounts. I can’t speak to individual situations, but there aren’t too many of these folks. Treasury department figures show that 99.3% of the people who receive any form of public assistance - especially Social Security and SSI - are required to get their money via direct deposit or on a refillable card known as Direct Express. State assistance programs offer similar benefits.

• People don’t have credit cards. This one is a personal choice, given skyrocketing interest rates these days. Many people, though, have credit cards they use only in an emergency. Some institutions offer credit cards without holders having a bank account of any type and take in-person cash payments on any balances. That can get costly if balances aren’t paid off regularly.

• People are on fixed incomes and can’t afford the additional cost of a money order. Generally, most people are indeed on fixed incomes. I’ve been on a fixed income for years since I worked for someone else. With annual sewer transmission bills and quarterly trash billing, paying by money order is an extra 10 bucks a year or just under three cents a day. My guess is that for them, a $2 money order fee at the local post office isn’t that big of an issue. From my perspective, it’s a small price to pay for keeping people safe.

• Cashless payment requirements are discriminatory. On a nationwide scale, I might agree. But for the purposes of Lansford’s sewer transmission and garbage bills, I wouldn’t. My question here is who would the borough be discriminating against? These payments come with the obligation of owning property. A spokesman for a Washington, D.C., think tank claims cashless transactions go against people who are homeless and possibly undocumented among other things. I’m not sure, though, that many Lansford property owners fit that description.

Paying by check or electronic means is fast becoming the way of the land. It worked during the COVID pandemic in Lansford and countless other places.

Online payments via computer or cellphone apps are accepted more as time passes.

Swiping, tapping or putting a card in a slot at a cash register is widely accepted as more self checkout spots become common in business and large retailers as generations advance.

Some of those machines even take cash in the rare event a customer chooses to use it.

In the last few weeks, there have been stories documenting how Visa is issuing cards that are tied to multiple accounts, instead of just one as the flow of cash in everyday commerce dries up.

It’s just a sign of the times.

Paper bills and coins, for many, have gone the way of rotary dial phones and 8-track tapes.

And moving forward, using cash will head farther down that same turnpike.

Oh, wait! That’s going cashless, too.

Ed Socha is a retired newspaper editor with more than 40 years’ experience in community journalism. Reach him at tneditor@tnonline.com.

The foregoing opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board or Times News LLC.