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These Boston Businesses Are Weighing Credit-Only Payment Plans

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It was sort of insidious at first. At some point over the last few years, a couple of downtown Boston parking garages started requiring credit card payment. No cash. Presumably personal checks are also out of the question.

Now that no-cash policy has spread to include several non-car-stowing businesses including the area’s popular Clover food trucks and a few other restaurant outposts, according to this Boston Globe story.

In an April blog post to announce Clover’s move away from cash, company founder and chief executive Ayr Muir admitted that it was a novel approach but worth a try because “cash is a huge pain, especially on the trucks. Most importantly I’ve never loved the security issues raised by having a bunch of cash on a truck.”

The reality, Muir added, was that while 20% of Clover transactions were credit initially, that percentage had soared to 80% by the time he made that decision. So as of May 1, Clover trucks were credit only.

The Amsterdam Falafel shop in Boston’s Kenmore Square is also cash-free and the local Sweetgreen salad franchise tried a no-cash policy, but reversed course, according to the report.

The fee levied on credit card transactions has kept some small merchants from fully embracing credit, and some merchants will even offer a discount on high-end goods bought for cash rather than credit. Basically they pass on what they would have paid in credit fees to the customer.

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For those weighing a no-cash policy, there can be savings both in money and resources spent counting cash and delivering it to the bank.

But here’s the issue with no-cash policies: It is technically illegal for a Massachusetts retailer to not offer a cash payment option. A 40-year-old state law says retailers cannot “discriminate against a cash buyer by requiring the use of credit,” according to the paper.

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Still for some tasks like paying highway and bridge tolls, the cash option is already going the way of the dodo bird. By October, Massachusetts is going all in on the automated EZ-Pass system and license plate readers.