Things No One Pays for With Cash Anymore
It's been a long time since cash was king.
Depending on how old you are, you might be surprised by some of the things we used to buy with cash that are now almost exclusively cash-free. Still, there are newer items that were never really meant for cash purchases from the start.
One thing to keep in mind is that, while some businesses may say they're cash-free for face-to-face transactions, don't always just take their word for it. A few states have laws against that specific thing.
Here's a look at the 30 items no one buys with cash anymore.
There was a time when people actually walked into travel agencies and up to airplane ticket counters to pay cash for plane tickets … pretty much before the internet.
There's a reason we don't pay cash for plane tickets anymore — the best deals are mostly found online through sites like Priceline and Orbitz.
Don't be afraid to go to the actual sites for airlines like Southwest, Frontier and Allegiant for some great deals as well. Just don't expect to be able to pay cash.
This is something you need to make a good plan for if you're traveling on a budget. Some airlines can get really stingy about what they let you take on planes, so be careful about what you've packed for your trip.
Even with self-check-in kiosks at every airline, you can get dinged when they take your boarding pass if the gate agent thinks your bag is too big. Paying at the gate will cost you extra, and, yes, they'll expect you to do it with a credit card.
Airplane Food and Drinks
OK, so you've purchased your airplane tickets online, and you're at the airport for your first trip in ages. So, of course, you think you need to grab some cash from the ATM for your flight because you're going to be thirsty and hungry, right?
Wrong. Sometime in the last decade, airlines stopped taking cash for in-flight services like food or drinks. You're not going to get a glass of wine or a bag of gummy bears or that great artisan snack tray they offer with cash.
Americans love going to the movies, but in 2020, we couldn't do that anymore. Just like that, the domestic box office was a bloodbath, dropping from $11.2 billion in 2019 to $2 billion in 2020.
But even before that, people weren't necessarily paying cash to go to the movies anymore, with tickets easily available to buy online and ahead of time before you actually got to the theaters. Many theaters even have automated booths to purchase tickets.
With a much shorter wait from the time a movie comes out to the time it hits streaming services, it's also become more convenient to buy a movie from the comfort of your own home.
This is one thing no one pays cash for anymore in the most practical sense. Way back in the day, you either had to drive somewhere to drop off cash or a check or, God forbid, mail the money to the utility or phone company.
These days, you'd be hard-pressed to find any of your bills you can't pay online with a credit or debit card. For most of your bills, there's even a specific app you can use that also shows you the balance as you make payments.
Tickets to Sporting Events
Of course, you can still walk up to the gate and pay cash for a ticket at your local stadium, but that's kind of an antiquated way of doing things. It's much easier to go online and buy tickets ahead of time.
We'd venture to say the majority of cash transactions for tickets these days are done in the secondary market … aka ticket scalpers standing outside of the stadiums.
Stadium Food and Drinks
Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium caused quite a stir when it went to a no-cash policy for food and drink inside of the stadium, but there's a good reason they did so.
One of the main things that people who attend games and concerts on a regular basis complain about is the exorbitant price of food and drink at the venue.
Going to a no-cash policy reduces employee hours in the long run and keep those prices down. Give it five years, and this will be the norm.
Just like sporting events, you're not going to want to pay for cash for a concert unless you're dealing with a scalper, which is obviously frowned upon by the law.
There's the idea that you can drive to the venue and purchase tickets in cash on the day tickets go on sale, but that adds in the cost of travel and time.
We're at least a decade into getting concert tickets almost entirely online, so if you're not doing it like that, how are you?
If you're going through a rental agency, those websites have portals set up for renters to pay monthly — usually requiring their own separate login information for the site.
Landlords are a different story because they can get their money through a variety of apps like Venmo, PayPal and Zelle to get money for rent.
If you're paying your mortgage, you're probably paying it through a bank and going to the bank's website or app to pay that way or just have it paid via direct deposit.
Hotel rooms can definitely still be paid for in cash … but that's not actually going to reserve you the room ahead of time.
Instead, you're going to have to make a reservation online or through an app, and even in the case where you just have to walk in and pay cash, you're most likely going to have to put down a security deposit.
How do you do that? Almost all of the major chains require a credit card or debit card for that deposit, even though you get the money put right back into your account after your stay is over.
Want to be part of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) … or any other sort of formal association for that matter? You're going to have to pay online.
Gaining membership to any sort of association usually meant showing up to a meeting and paying your fees with cash or check way back in the day. Now, all of our favorite associations like the USTA all have apps and websites where you're required to pay your fees to join there instead of in person.
Kids, talk to your parents. Parents, tell your kids. There was a time when it wasn't as easy as just pulling up an app on your phone to have someone come pick you up.
Ride services Uber and Lyft have all but taken the taxi cab companies we all loved to hate and pushed them the way of the dinosaur over the last decade.
Want a ride? Get an app and never, ever exchange cash — Uber and Lyft both have post-ride tipping options for the exact purpose.
The late 2000s were a watershed moment for journalism — most specifically newspapers. Those were the last days in which people rattled around for change in their pockets (a little more change on Sundays) and plugged them into a newspaper box for that day's issue.
U.S. newspapers boasted 71,000 employees in 2008 — a number that dropped more than half to 35,000 by 2014. That's because people stopped paying cash for their news, via subscriptions or single copies. Want a subscription to The New York Times? You'll have to do it online.
Video Streaming Services
There was a time when Netflix was something you actually could pay cash or check for — in the late 2000s when the service focused on sending out DVDs that you sent back before you could get new ones. Remember that blip in time?
That all changed in the early 2010s when Netflix started its streaming service, and the rest is history — now you have dozens of options of streaming services you can beam right into your home. None of which take cash.
Gas at the Pump
You used to be able to pump your car full of an entire tank of gas before you paid in any form. These days there is no way you can get the petro rolling at the tank without a card — if you want to pay cash feel free to go inside and pre-pay.
Otherwise, paying at the pump requires some sort of credit or debit card just to get things started. If it's debit, you'll have to pop in your pin code (same as the ATM), or it's usually a zip code with credit cards.
You can actually reserve a car online without paying for it, and you can keep or drop the reservation without canceling, and it won't cost you a dime.
But don't expect to go into the rental store without a debit or credit card to get the rental — few car rental companies take cash and the ones that do let you pay cash for the rental won't let you walk out the door without putting a credit or debit card on file to cover the deposit.
Almost every place you make car payments monthly is going to need you to make those payments online — reputable places, at least. There are definitely "pay by month" places that take cash, but those places are generally rip-offs.
Even those places now have ways to pay online. And while you might be able to make your down payment in cash (which is fine), you're not going to want to keep driving back and forth to the dealership or the bank to pay cash for your car every month.
We all have that older relative who has talked about paying cash for land or a house — heck my Great Grandpa Jack bought three rundown houses for cash, tore them apart bit by bit and built one actual, nice house out of all the useful materials.
But that was in the 1940s. It's not something anyone would do today because, for one thing, houses have become so expensive that carrying around that kind of cash is insane. Second, because we don't have to.
If you want to buy a home, there's going to be some sort of digital transaction involved. The cash-to-cash hand exchange for property is a thing of the past.
(Some) Restaurants and Coffee Houses
ModCup Coffee Co. Owner Travis Clifton's stores went completely cash-free three years ago when the Jersey City, New Jersey-based chain realized more than 80 percent of its sales were cashless.
The decision to go cashless is an individual decision businesses have to make, but in some states, they're hamstrung by regulation — meaning there are laws that say they can't refuse to accept cash. That's exactly why ModCup had to go back to taking cash.
There's always a loophole, so don't be surprised the day you walk into your favorite Italian restaurant and they ask if you have Apple Pay before you get some delicious gnocchi.
You don't have to pay for your credit score, actually, so it's not just cash you're not going to pay with.
There are dozens of ways online to get free credit scores, but the one thing you shouldn't get sucked in by is paying someone for it. The Federal Trade Commission has cracked down on companies who offer "free" credit scores as well, in case you've ever been suckered into paying for one.
The best app for getting free updates on your credit score — or anything to do with your credit score for that matter— has to be CreditKarma.
You're going to have a tough time building up your credit by paying for things with cash — anything you pay on a regular basis you're going to want to have some sort of digital footprint for so it can help your credit score.
You'll need to pay on time for it to help your credit, obviously, but making those payments on apps and online kicks the information right to the credit bureaus, which make your score go up and down.
Look up in the sky … there's your new credit score.
Food Delivery Services (Except Pizza)
Aside from some local places, chains like Pizza Hut are one of the few major fast-food restaurants (or really any restaurant type) that will still take cash for delivery and let you choose that option online.
All of the tastiest deliveries come on the apps these days — UberEats and Waitr are two of the most-used ones that have access to some really amazing restaurants around your area. Not that there's anything wrong with pizza, we just like to mix it up every now and then.
Genealogy services like 23andMe have skyrocketed in popularity over the last five years, and you won't be able to pay cash when you pay for or send in those saliva kits that tell you who all your first cousins are or which president you're related to.
Depending on how you want to do it, you don't even have to pay at all — GEDmatch is a free online genealogy service. (Just be careful what you opt into on the consent form.)
So, you just took 300 photos on your family vacation and absolutely can't bear to part with any of them … well you, my friend, are going to need some extra storage in the cloud — something you definitely can't pay for with cash.
There are all kinds of different plans for how much storage space you want, starting at around $3.99 per month and going up from there. And it's a safe bet that you've never been able to pay for them with cash.
If going into a bookstore doesn't interest you these days and you're not into holding a physical copy of a book, then e-books are the way to go.
Here's the thing about e-books — you can't go somewhere and pay cash for them. You have to buy them online, which is a far cry from our elders who had to actually carry around books.
Don't worry though, you can definitely go into a brick-and-mortar store and pay cash for what you'll read the e-books on, like a Kindle.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, we had this thing happen where music was … free.
Napster and Sean Parker ("You know what's cool? A billion dollars.") changed the music industry for good by offering up free music for all to steal in the form of an MP3, but that's all changed in the last 20 years.
Now, you can pay a monthly subscription for Apple Music or Spotify to have access to every song you ever wanted … but you sure as heck can't pay cash for it.
Anyone remember COD? That's "Cash on Delivery" for the uninitiated — which means the recipient pays for shipping fees or the actual item upon delivery.
You don't remember it because that's not really how things are done anymore. Shipping fees are usually one of the line items on whatever you've just bought online, or they're wrapped up in that handy Amazon Prime fee you pay monthly or annually.
Either way, unless you're walking into the post office, you're not paying cash.
Newsflash, potential college students: There's not an accounts payable office on the campuses of the University of Phoenix and Southern New Hampshire University … because they don't have campuses.
An increasing number of people are turning to online universities to get degrees, and we understand why — for practical reasons and for convenience.
But if you think there's somewhere to drop some cash off for tuition, then you have another thing coming. Because here's the thing about online school … it's online. As in no physical location.
There was a time you could shoot over to your insurance person's office and drop off a check or some cash, get a receipt and your insurance premium was paid.
Not today. Not even "The General" ads on television (the ones with Shaq) are going to take cash for payments.
Word to the wise: If someone is telling you they'd like to go ahead and take cash payments for an insurance premium, you might want to check if you're actually buying some fugazi (fake) insurance.
Home Gym Equipment
You've seen the commercials for Peloton bikes, and now you want one — but your trip to daily exercise is not going to come with a cash payment.
The way to get the best deal on an actual Peloton bike is to go online, where they offer financing for your exercise dreams (of course, they do).
It's the same thing with The Mirror home workout systems, which are becoming more and more popular — go online and buy it with a credit or debit card for the best deal.