The benefits of using cash in a world ruled by tap
It’s just a few days before Christmas. You’re getting ready to relax with some eggnog, when suddenly it hits you: you forgot to get a gift for Secret Santa. A quick trip to the store should fix that, right? So you find something that fits the $20 price limit, stand in line for the length of a Friends rerun, and finally make it to the cashier. But guess what? The card readers are down.
Moneris, a major payment processing system across Canada, went down for an hour on Dec. 22. I’ve always said that cash is king, but as I stood there paying for some overpriced artisanal goat cheese with a few bills — allowing me to stroll out of the store leisurely while the other shoppers stressed about how they’d pay — just how much I love physical currency was cemented in my mind.
Credit cards, debit cards, tap, Apple Pay, Google Pay; it just gets to be too much to keep track of sometimes. I’ll admit, though, once I was able to pay for things by just waving my phone around, I couldn’t stop. It’s convenient — almost too convenient. It takes the realness out of paying for things. I wouldn’t even look at how much the total was. I just tapped and went about my day. But then the credit card bill hit me, and I realized that too much tapping might not be a good thing.
I love pulling out a few bills at the grocery store to pay for my food. Yes, perhaps I love flipping through a wad of cash because it makes me feel like a mob boss paying off a hitman, but that’s not the only reason. There’s an aspect of a game to it: how can I most efficiently pay with the bills I have on hand? More importantly, I know exactly how much I’m spending.
If I have to run some errands or do some shopping, I know that my budget for the day is determined by the amount of cash I slip in my wallet. Obviously, if something comes up, I can always use my card, but having that cash limit to stick to helps me think about just how much I’m spending, and according to a 2023 poll, I’m not the only who thinks that way. This is money, not just some number on a screen. At the end of the day, after I’ve paid for everything and emptied my pockets, my bank account is still the same. Not to mention, I now have some change to pay for parking.
I’m not going to pretend that cash doesn’t have its downfalls. It’s dirty. Probably really dirty. Who knows how many grubby, unwashed paws have passed this old 20 around? Nothing gets rid of my appetite faster than handing a barista a bill and then seeing them give me a muffin with that same hand.
If you’re at all scatterbrained or tend to misplace things, then the greatest flaw of cash becomes very apparent: you can lose it. Did I really spend all my cash? Or has someone luckier than me picked it up off the ground to pay for their lunch? But, in my opinion, the pain of losing cash is narrowly beaten out by the joy that comes from finding a forgotten bill in an old jacket.
If your credit card is stolen, you’re luckily covered. Having cash stolen is much harder to get back. But hey, at least you can’t lose it all by accidentally giving your password to some scam online.
While having a bit of change can be great, it starts to pile up fast when using cash. What am I supposed to do with this jar of nickels?
Even with all the downsides of cash, I’ll never stop loving our country’s colourful pieces of plastic. Being able to pay and slip out of a restaurant as soon as my bill is ready feels like something out of your favourite sitcom. Owe your friend some money for lunch? Skip the e-transfer, slip them a 20, and it’ll make their day. No level of technological convenience will ever beat the feeling of telling a cab driver to “just keep the change,” or being able to pay for something with exactly what’s in your pocket. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: cash is king.