Transitioning to only accepting digital payments is a form of classism

Fair warning: It’s Friday night and I have been thinking a lot this evening. While I follow this train of thought in my head, I question my ability to adequately convey the thoughts.

Prior to COVID, the western world was already deeply entrenched in digital payment systems. Credit cards, debit cards, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Crypto Currency, these are all forms of digital payments that have been driving the economy for several years now. This transition to digital payment mediums was only exacerbated by the pandemic when many businesses transitioned away from accepting cash because they wanted to limit their employees handling cash.

Cash carries germs. Germs could get employees sick. COVID is bad. COVID comes from germs. Therefore cash is the enemy. At least around here it has been.

I can’t tell you the number of businesses I’ve been to since March in which digital forms of payments are the only payments they accept.

Eventually, even after we’re all vaccinated, digital payments are still going to be the norm. We know this because this was already a transition happening prior to COVID.

This is classism.

We’ve already played the ageism card and told seniors and the elderly they need to get with the times and learn our technology. Now we’re playing the classism card and telling people that if they cannot pay for something digitally, they cannot pay for it at all.

We are (as a society) developing a system for people of financial stability and resource to be able to easily purchase their goods and services with digital means, ignoring the fact that technology is a luxury. Technology is not something that everyone has. Despite what people say, it’s not even something the majority of people have. I know that we like to pretend everyone has a cell phone and everyone has a bank account, but factually, that’s not the case.

What will homeless people do when they’re no longer able to take their cash to purchase… well… anything? What are they going to do? When they can’t even buy a freaking banana, or a hamburger or whatever it is they might need and would have otherwise in the past used cash to pay for? They’ve had a hard enough time finding businesses that accept cash during the pandemic. So what happens when we transition to a fully digital payment system for good?

Banks treat homeless people as liabilities and very few banks actually provide (very few) homeless people with a bank account (I’ve only ever seen one bank here in Canada that seeks to give homeless people a bank acccount). If they don’t even have a bank card they’re definitely not going to have the newest iPhone to use Apple Pay. Are Apple or Samsung going to step up and provide technology for the homeless and a system for a reloadable balance?

Please don’t say ‘Well they shouldn’t be homeless anymore’. That is a form of classism. You and I have no idea why, or how, someone wound up homeless and we don’t deserve the right to judge them. We can help them if they would like help, yes. Judge them? Hell no.

What about people who live in abject poverty? Because, while people don’t always like to admit it, there millions of Canadians, and tens of millions (if not hundreds of millions) of Americans who don’t just live below the federally or locally determined poverty line, but actually live in abject poverty. Their roofs are caving in, their meals are few and far between, their resources are almost non existent. These people don’t necessarily have bank accounts because, quite frankly, they don’t have money to put in a bank account. Even if they do have a bank account, though, if they don’t have any money in the bank account, they may not be so inclined to take what little money they do manage to get from a family member, friend, neighbour, side hustle or whatever source they’re getting it from, to put in a bank account in order to pay for milk and bread.

Banking fees are no joke. If someone’s already dealing with an extreme budget, or lack thereof, forcing banking fees upon them is only furthering the burden they’re already bearing.

Please don’t say ‘well they shouldn’t live in poverty, then.’ If it were truly that simple, then no one would be living in poverty.

I’ve really only begun scraping the surface of what issues come from not having, or using cash any longer. I don’t know who else has noticed but a lot of charities are only accepting digital payments these days (unrelated to COVID). That means for every charitable donation made, banking fees will be incurred. There are A LOT of organizations who relied heavily on an extra dollar here or an extra five dollars there from a lot of people. It might not seem like much if you’re well off, but what would normally be providing an extra $5 bill now has the possibility to incur a $1.25 (or more) banking fee, depending on where someone banks. That’s enough to turn people away.

This future that we’re building around cards and smart phones, wireless transfers and so on… it’s a deeply flawed system being built for the financially stable, the resource rich and well off people of this world.

Everyone else? I guess they’re out of luck.

49 thoughts on “Transitioning to only accepting digital payments is a form of classism

  1. V, thank you for this post! The big chain store hates to handle cash. Homeless people, a great majority, are homeless with no fault of their own. This pandemic has shown us that many are only one or two missed paychecks away from being homeless. When the moratorium on evictions are lifted this may give rise to many more people out on the streets. They will have to catch up on their missed rent payments, probably some will pay interest. People are in a bad way and it just might get worse before it gets better. I live on a disability income which keeps me below the poverty line. You are so correct about technology is a luxury. I do not have a cell phone because I just cannot afford it. I will keep my landline for it is much cheaper.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Landlines are so much cheaper. Actually, MacLeans published a piece last year that said Canada ranks in the top three in the world for most expensive cellular plans. It is extremely expensive to have a cell phone in this country, even on the most basic of plans.
      We act like technology is something so easy for everyone to have, but truthfully, it’s out of reach for a lot of people.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. My cell phone bill is paid by my work (because it’s predominantly used for work purposes) but if I had to pay for it myself, I would cut way down. Right now my work is paying $210 a month for my cell phone usage. I can’t ever see myself being willing to pay that much per month.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s not too bad by my budget standards, but could still be out of reach for many people who live at, or below the poverty line.

        American cell plans are actually quite a bit more affordable than Canadian ones, from my experience. Canadians who have access to do so, will often get an American plan with roaming because it’s cheaper to run a roaming plan in Canada than it is to pay for a Canadian plan.

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      1. Yeah I do worry about that too. But, I feel we have too many little shops and I think a lot people in business, banks, and even our government and our charities will really ensure all are taken care off and maybe we won’t go fully digital. Or there is an in between.

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      1. People get excited when they see it tho. But sometimes I feel like they question where I got it? Idk technology just isnt as inclusive as we want to think.

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      2. 47% of the world’s population doesn’t even have access to internet. People act as though technology is inclusive, but you’re right, it’s definitely not as inclusive as we want to think it is.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. It was the year 2016 and our Prime Minister announced Demonetization. We were left helpless and he asked us to carry digital transactions.. The old notes were banned and people gotta submit their old notes standing in the hot summer sun… Many people died..
    Our gov is penetrating the idea of digitized payment… And they have succeeded to a scale.. But the rich peeps get Richer while the poor gets more poor…
    They don’t consider the whole system…

    They are crazy!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. This is so true. When these decisions are made they’re being made with the rich and the well off in mind and they’re not considering everyone. The rich get richer and the poor get pushed further into poverty and it becomes harder for them to just live.

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  3. You know, you are the ONLY person so far that I’ve heard explain the digital currency ‘conversion’ thing where it makes sense. With the homeless or people that aren’t as fortunate to have all these gadgets let alone a bank account you’re right it’ll hit them by far the worst.

    Absolutely food for thought. Fellow Albertan here to the north. Enjoying the blogs. Take care.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Sending you a socially distanced wave from Calgary. Thanks for your note. I feel like there’s no good outcomes when I think of the way this world is transitioning. Even here in Alberta, there are so many more homeless people than Albertans like to admit to. How do we not leave them behind?

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      1. Waving back from Edmonton!
        Yeah and I have been to quite a heavy cash society, Japan, and there’s no way they’ll make the transition but here and other ‘have’ nations I can see it happening for sure. Then the quarterly earnings of banks will be up up up…

        I have only heard the ‘conspiracy theories of digital currency’ from rather pandemic crazy brothers (meaning not taking it seriously and just becoming hate mongers) so it was refreshing to read a take that I could completely understand a viewpoint on.

        Yeah leaving them behind in Alberta is a tough one. When idiots can magically find stadium funds for a stupid sports team but have little services available to those struggling (not talking about the ladies that married the rig guys so they don’t have to lift a finger and now that their beer money is low they use the foodbank) it shows quite a deep problem here.

        I’m smiling but thanks to my mask you can’t see it.

        Have a great day!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Absolutely agree with you. I resent being forced to use technology for everything. When was the last time you went to a doctor and he actually looked at you rather than typing into a computer? Just last week my bank somehow entered a wrong digit for a withdrawal, removing $5,500 frrom my account, right before the holiday weekend. This does not inspire confidence, and I hate to say how many times my credit cards have been hacked and I am very careful about protecting my info. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to scammers. It’s outrageous. I agree money is filthy and full of germs, but how many hundreds of years have we used it? I don’t know the answer. It is messed up for sure.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. $5,500? Holy crap. That’s a pretty stinking large “mistake”. I’d be out for someone’s head. And your mention of scammers raises another valid point – as we continue to transition to a digital payment world, scams are only going to go up, causing more harm to more people than ever before.

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    1. Your comment made me think about what happens as technology becomes more advanced. Does it get more expensive? Does it become farther out of reach for the median income group? It already costs more for an Iphone than it does for rent for a month. I’m literally just thinking out loud but this is a very scary world we’re entering.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I don’t know. I live in an area with a very large Amish population, so I’m always fascinated by the people who eschew technology by choice. The Amish have an almost entirely functional sub-economy that fits into the larger economy, but doesn’t really play by the same rules. I could go out to Amish country right now and buy groceries or furniture or flowers or whatever, but I would only be able to pay with cash or check. I wonder if that provides something of a picture into the coming economic bifurcation. Are we going to end up with two different economies, one that is technology driven vs. one that is cash driven? I’m also just spitballing, but it’s an interesting thing to think about.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post, and absolutely right on. Lots of people don’t trust “the cloud” or computers, too. And many elderly avoid online banking because they make mistakes online, and there’s no kind bank person to help them out. My own husband won’t pay bills electronically, and rather trusts the mail/post to deliver his payments. Right now, that’s biting him in the butt here in the US. Sigh.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Germs isn’t the reason why I’m not using cash these days – I got stuck using use digital currency. Honestly, cash works just fine for me. I have one master card and a backup debit card. No crypto, no bitcoin, no Apple Pay etc.

    It’s true that I haven’t stepped foot in a bank since April so I don’t have cash on me right now. I wish I had cash because spending is harder to track with a credit card than it is with cash. It’s kinda hard to pay bills at the bank when I can’t get to a bank. 🤷‍♀️

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I was in a bank in November and it was very uncomfortable to have to be there. I don’t think I’ve used, or even touched physical cash in six months. Which is crazy. Because you’re right, using cash is easy. Using cash… when you run out, you stop spending.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. On a personal level, I’ve regularly given money to people who ask for it for many years. As I’ve moved to use cards for most payments, I’ll often find myself without any cash. “I’m sorry, I don’t have any cash on me at the moment” is a refrain I’ve started to use more regularly. I read recently that homeless people in Sweden have begun to use electronic cards also when asking for money. It’s three years since I last visited Sweden, so I have no persponal experience of that. But it’s an interesting development (if true) reflecting a probably more “advanced” approach to electronic transactions, and perhaps welfare system also?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s interesting what you speak of Sweden. I wonder how that works. Are they able to get cards without having a residence? Does the government give it to them. I know it’s been a few years since you’ve been there so really I’m just asking the void because you don’t have personal experience. Guess I’m just thinking out loud.

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    1. Thank you for reading.
      It’s always nice to share in what I deem important discussions with others. The more we talk and have conversations, the more informed we can all be.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Very true in many ways but I believe it goes even deeper. It will usher in a world of total control by technocrats, as well as create a black market where people will trade without digital currency. Some people will be okay with it because they are part of the digital economy and welcome this idea. Others will see how discriminatory it is, even though technocrats claim that it will empower the poor in third world countries. I don’t think so! It will just enable their governments to tax them even more.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Girlfriend, thank you for speaking truth into this!! While reading I got visions of the Matrix and Minority Report. I have to agree with you here because the direction we’re heading literally excludes too many. I felt this way too when I didn’t have a cell phone for years while I was homeless. This was when I was applying for disability which is another system to add to the list of broken systems. I was denied and my partner who is clearly struggling and has qualified is still awaiting the financial compensation from the government (this is what keeps us apart today) I digress, off the point of your post. Sorry. To log into our social security system in the U.S. I had to have a code sent to my non existent cell phone. It’s ridiculous how too many systems are just blatantly cutting out large portions of the population. Systems and the leaders that lead them are afraid. We are rising, power to the people my dear ones. I smell big changes around the corner🙏

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Your comments remind me that there are a lot of broken, and severely flawed, systems in the United States and around the world. These broken systems are causing people those who need help to have a hard, if not impossible, time trying to get the support they truly need. We’re leaving those at risk and in trouble behind. It’s classist.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. You bring up good points on both sides of the coin: the world is moving towards the digital age of payment with credit cards, Venmo, and other forms of contactless payment, which can be great for not only reducing germs/infections, but also cumbersome change in our wallets. But I do see the point of not accepting cash being classist, because some people do not have credit cards at all. Working for the welfare government, I was amazed to see many of my clients (many who are homeless) not have credit cards and only rely on cash to get around; the most they have is an EBT card, which is like a debit card to buy food. I see many countries in the world move towards nearly digital transactions, including China and Iceland, but I think at the end of the day, we still should have cash as an option since it’s been a system of exchange for practically millennia. Cash can be especially useful if you want to make small purchases, as some places only accept credit cards after a certain limit (e.g. $10 USD or more). We’ll have to see what the future holds for money, but until then, I believe cash is here to stay, even beyond COVID-19.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. While I hope that cash sticks around, I wonder if 5-10 years down the road it just is on its way out the door. For sure it’ll be here through 2021 probably 2022 and the next couple of years, like you say. I think as technology advances, companies/banks will find ways to lower those limits for transitions… at which point those with high limits will likely just be those trying to rip off consumers. To some extent that’s already happening… I fear we’re leaving those who are homeless, in poverty, without resources behind. Ya know?

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Superb post. Very well said. I am happy that someone raises this question. You can’t expect everyone to have a bank account, smartphone & internet facility. You can’t expect everyone to be well versed in technology. In many situations, you need cash.

    Governments, companies, and banks force people to use digital payments because in this way make extra money in the form of taxes, transaction charges, and payment gateway charges. In digital payments, there is a risk of online fraud also.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re correct! And online fraud risks will only continue to rise as more people flock to digital only payments in a pandemic world.

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  12. This might sound a little bit conspiracy-ish. I suspect there is a nefarious attitude toward digital-only currency. Not that there is a plot or anything but it is much easier to track an individuals spending habits with digital only currency instead of cash. So if I’m a tech giant and I want to personalize ads and be able to predict when you might spend money such that when I send ads your way I can limit the risk you ignore them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ohhhhhh digital spending practices make it so much easier to track what we buy. My bank sends me emails about where to buy gas and what pharmacies and other things at least once a week. People are getting around Canadian privacy law by paying the bank to send the information to it’s customers rather than paying for its customers information…. Basically, everything gets tracked if it’s digital.

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    1. Credit cards or etransfers will always be required for shopping online. That’s in place because there are so many security flaws with the world-wide-web. If you didn’t have some sort of card with security measures in place, ordering online would put you at a great deal of risk. You know what I mean? I’m not going to put cash into an envelope and send it off to a non-descript address in hopes they send me something back in many, many weeks, depending on how well the mail system works.

      Like

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