OPEN LETTER: Restricting the free circulation of cash hurts society’s most vulnerable

Montreal, May 29, 2020 – In response to the article “COVID-19 pandemic could accelerate shift to cashless, experts say” published by the Canadian Press on May 28, 2020, under Nicole Thompson’s byline, the Canadian Association of Secured Transportation (CAST) would like to reiterate the vital role that cash plays in our society.


The article accurately repeats the Bank of Canada’s warning that the decision to refuse cash could be disastrous for the most vulnerable, including the homeless and other unbanked people. But we should also think of seniors who may have difficulty with technology, the blind, people without credit cards, charities that depend on coin drives (poppies for veterans, daffodils for cancer, donations to the Salvation Army, etc.), tips for service-industry workers, and so on.


The economy requires a sufficient supply of cash to function properly, but the considerations are also moral and societal. In a report published in March of this year, Option consommateurs sounded the alarm: it argued that eliminating cash would expose consumers to many risks, both financial and operational. Like the Bank of Canada, its report raises the risk of excluding low-income consumers, senior citizens and the less educated, who are more dependent on cash.


The report also points out that consumers want to maintain the democratic concept of being able to choose their payment method. Moreover, cash provides benefits that payment cards cannot truly replace, such as protection of confidentiality and anonymity, while helping many people manage their debt levels. 


Cash is also of crucial importance as a contingency plan or in an emergency. None of us are immune to computer failures and power outages that prevent the use of payment cards or to situations beyond our control, which unfortunately happen too often these days. It is therefore essential to protect the various options for payment of the goods and services that consumers want to purchase.


As for merchants, many of them greatly appreciate the benefits of cash, with the majority deeming the fees associated with bank cards and credit cards too high.


Finally, as for the argument about the cleanliness of cash, it is a false debate. Numerous studies have shown that banknotes generally do not represent a particularly high risk of infection compared with other surfaces that are touched frequently each day. Hand washing and other hygiene measures are the best protection according to public health recommendations.


We are all rightly looking for ways to stop the spread of Covid-19. Restricting the free circulation of cash is not a solution; instead, it exacerbates the long list of problems we currently face, while further weakening the most vulnerable in our society.


About the Canadian Association of Secured Transportation
The purpose of the Canadian Association of Secured Transportation (CAST) is to promote and advocate for the interests of Canadian providers of secure transportation of valuables, to provide a venue for beneficial dialogue among members, and to encourage the advancement and excellence of industry standards across Canada and abroad.


Steven Meitin
President, Canadian Association of Secured Transportation (CAST)