On Getting Older: Can I Live Without Credit?

financial planning for retirement Mar 28, 2023

As I’ve noted elsewhere, it used to be that if a man wanted to impress a woman, he’d flash a bankroll.  Now she’d likely flee in horror at such Neanderthal-like behavior.  It is the platinum card she wants to see.  On second thought, actually using a credit card might also be too old-school for her – one simply flashes one’s phone at the point of sale terminal. 

Is it possible to go back to cash days?

I’ve been mulling this over:  it is even possible to go back to pre-credit days and pay by cash or check for everything?  Sort of like one of those British TV shows where a family reenacts life in the Victorian period, or a PBS special I saw where people re-enacted life in one of the early US colonies. 

Begs the question:  why would I even want to?  Privacy is the concern, of course.  I’m sure my iphone doubles as a tracking device, giving the monitoring party real-time information as to my whereabouts and activities.  This is sort of concerning, but not too much, as I have the ultimate weapon against my observer:  death by boredom. 

If you’ve ever Googled anything you’re interested in spending money on, you’ll see that from that day forward the pop-up ads will all feature that thing.  How do they know?  What is your defense?

This is a big concern at work to maintain the confidentiality of clients' non-public information.  I use a pop-up blocker.  I use a VPN (virtual private network) that sort of gives false information as to my computer’s whereabouts.  If I’m doing anything financial, I open a private window, one which Google promises to keep no record of. 

But how about in stores?  Swiping is now too much work.  Inserting the chip card is also too onerous.  So now I just tap.  Easy peasy.  Stores love this because they can move more customers through the payment lines at a faster pace.  To prove my point:  self-checkouts are now all over Publix, Walmart, and other places. 

Back to my original question: 

Can I live on cash alone, leaving no digital footprint? 

For starters, I’d have to login to each account I have and change my billing method to US mail, rather than electronic.  Then, twice a month (corresponding to paydays) I’ll have to sit down with these bills, write out checks, and, having previously purchased stamps, mail them off.  And then my email inbox will be blasted with requests to please go paperless to save the planet.  No longer will I earn airline miles and hotel points. 

I’ll have to figure out how much cash I need to have in my pocket.  Instead of tapping my card in the lobby deli, I’ll have to pull out cash, and the clerk will have to remove her plastic glove to make change, and then replace the glove, and the people in line behind me will be glaring holes in my head for taking so long.   

So far all do-able, if inconvenient. 

What can I NOT do with cash?

So what can I NOT do with cash?  It is a growing list: 

  • I can’t use vending machines. Most are card only. 
  • I can pay for drinks or snacks in coach on AA. Not an issue for me.
  • I can’t use Uber. Big inconvenience. 
  • I can’t use Turo
  • I can’t use Air B&B

I can still rent a hotel room and rent a car and pay cash, but I will be required to present a credit or debit card to be charged for incidentals or if I try to skip out on the bill. 

Another important point:  you need to demonstrate strong credit to be hired into certain jobs.  If you go cashless, you are no longer producing a credit history.  

Can a store refuse to take cash?

All this begs the question:  Is it legal for a business in the United States to refuse cash as a form of payment?  From the Federal Reserve website:

There is no federal statute mandating that a private business, a person, or an organization must accept currency or coins as payment for goods or services. Private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether to accept cash unless there is a state law that says otherwise.

So it seem that as far as Uncle Sam goes a business can go completely cashless.  But state law may override.  As far as I know, it still remains perfectly legal in Florida for a business to go cashless. 

And of course, there’s the risk that some thug decides to mug you to redistribute your cash to himself. 

I love the present!

I love living in the present!  Technological advances excite me.  What can I accomplish in the 2 hours I don’t have to allocate to paying bills?  Tapping a card for payment couldn’t be easier – I love it!  And who knows what wonderful advances are heading our way?

Best to all,

--Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

Feel free to get in touch at [email protected].  Also follow me on LinkedInFacebook, and YouTube for more personal financial information relevant to you! 




Stay connected with news and updates!

Sign up for our monthly newsletter for more personal finance and market insights.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.