Is It Possible to Live Without Credit Cards, Debit Cards, and Cash Apps?

Is It Possible to Live Without Credit Cards, Debit Cards, and Cash Apps?

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The old saying “cash is king” hasn’t really been true in ages. Card and app transactions represent about 60% of all purchases between $10 and $100, meaning cash is now used mainly for small purchases–and the occasional business that doesn’t accept credit cards or cash apps. But cash is also still very useful. When a hurricane knocked out the power grid in my town for seven long days a few years ago, local businesses became cash-only overnight, which made having some cash in your emergency kit an absolute necessity. Because you can have physical contact with your money, cash is a better option than digital payment systems or cards. Cash is also the best option for anonymous spending because it is virtually impossible to trace.

But if you want to live a cash-only lifestyle, there are some problems. The world is increasingly based on cards, chips and payment apps. Can you live cash-only in today’s world?

Can you pay for all your basics necessities with cash?

A purist cash-only lifestyle would also eliminate bank accounts, of course, but living without a bank account isn’t easy unless you have several Walter White barrels of cash at home to draw on. You will need some type of bank account if you have a job or have a retirement plan you want to grow through compound interest. You’ll be cashing a paycheck at a check-cashing location and paying outrageous fees for it. Now then, let’s take a look at the basics of life and whether or not you even have the option of paying cash for them:

  • Housing. It’s possible you can come to an arrangement with a landlord to rent an apartment for cash. This can be a tricky negotiation. On one hand, they may want cash for the same reasons you do. The other side of the coin is that they might be suspicious about your finances. And believe it or not you can purchase a home with cash–you will run into some serious IRS oversight, though, and you’ll need to find a seller who doesn’t mind receiving payment via dump truck pouring dollar bills onto their front lawn. But let’s rate this a possible, as it can be done.
  • Utilities. Paying your electric, gas, water, and phone bills with cash is possible, but often difficult. Utility companies will accept cash, but only if you are able to show up at the payment center in person. Cash payments are accepted if the phone company has a storefront close to you. However, if there is no storefront nearby, you will be SOL.
  • Food. Grocery stores are probably the easiest places to use cash. Most grocery stores still accept cash, even though they have self-service checkout kiosks. It can be a bit wonky feeding bill after bill into those kiosks, but it works, so this is a definitely!
  • Transportation. You can still use cash on most public transportation–although this is changing, so you’ll have to check your local service–and old-school taxis will usually take cash. You can still buy a car, new or used, with cash. The dealer might be surprised, but they will take your anonymous money. Although insurance companies won’t approve of it, you can still visit their local office to pay cash in most cases. Rental cars are the exception. You might find a rental company that will let you settle your final bill with cash, but almost all of them require a credit card to make, hold, and secure the reservation. Still, cash-only transportation is mostly a yes.

Can you pay for the most common “extras” with cash?

OK, so you can live a bare-bones, cash-only lifestyle if you choose your living situation very carefully. What if you really want to leave your home and do things?

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  • Stores. Almost all retail stores will still accept cash–though you may find exceptions. Some states and cities have laws that require cash acceptance by businesses. But this remains a definitely for the time being.
  • Airlines. Yep, you can buy an airline ticket with cash in most cases–as long as you can physically go to the airline’s ticket booth. You can purchase a ticket at most major airlines’ ticket counters. You will lose some of the benefits of a credit card like easy refunds or travel protection if you buy a ticket with cash. But we’ll rate this a yes.
  • Hotels. This one is complicated. This is a tricky one. The more expensive the hotel, the less likely it is to accept cash. A run-down motel? Probably. Is this a four-star luxury property? Most likely not. Some hotels will accept cash to pay your final bill. However, they will still need a credit card when you make the reservation or check in. Some hotels will accept cash without a credit card if you’re a walk-in guest and can put down a deposit, but you have to call ahead to make sure of this. This is a maybe.

Other cash-only considerations

You can still manage a cash-only lifestyle if you really want to, though it will come with some limitations. But just because you can do it doesn’t mean there are no downsides:

  • Convenience. Insisting on cash limits your choices, in many cases requires extra effort, and sometimes will actually cost you more.
  • Supply. Living cash-only requires a lot of planning, because you need to have a supply of physical currency at all times. You will need to go to the bank to withdraw funds if you have a bank account. If you have spent your last dollar on a hotdog and don’t have any carfare to get back home, you won’t have any options.
  • Theft. One of the most miraculous things about credit cards is how easy they make it to recover from theft. Often, you will not lose anything if you report fraud on your credit card. Losing cash, on the other hand, is nothing but loss. If you cannot physically track down the money, it is impossible to get it back.

Final verdict: You sure can live a cash-only life. However, there are some serious drawbacks to this lifestyle.

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