Have you ever been abroad and popped into a shop to buy a bottle of water or a sandwich, only to find that your chump change is no good there? The march of digitalisation means that an increasing number of shops are going cash-free in what is seen as a move towards a quicker, safer payment system for everyone involved. It’s particularly prevalent in the Netherlands, where signs reading alleen pinnen – card only – now appear everywhere from supermarkets to train stations.
This is a problem for travellers whose cards charge high fees for usage abroad or don’t fit into the usual Visa/Maestro rubric. It’s even more of a problem for people without a bank account, as Philadelphia has found out. Nearly six per cent of the city’s population – close to 95,000 people – are classed as “unbanked”, according to federal banking data. As a result the city council has just banned cashless shops – the first major US city to do so. This doesn’t tackle the underlying issue of why some people are outside the banking system but at least it recognises that there’s a problem. And for all those travellers heading to Philly this year, it’s a great chance to get your Lincolns, Jacksons and Franklins out.