Cashless options, fiscal tips for consumers in a COVID-19 world
Admit it: Even before the current pandemic, you sometimes couldn’t help but wonder where that ratty dollar bill on your counter, in your wallet, or in the cash register had been. Passing through the hands of about 100 people a year, those greenbacks can get ragged, bedraggled, and just plain icky.
While the World Health Organization (WHO) hasn’t linked the use of cash—bills and coins—to the spread of the novel coronavirus, the international agency has noted that washing your hands after handling money, especially if you’re touching or eating food, is just good hygiene. But what’s even better hygiene in this day and age? Not using cash at all.
As more and more businesses go cashless in the time of coronavirus, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)—the U.S. government agency charged with maintaining stability and public confidence in the nation’s financial system—offers tips on how consumers can participate in cash-free transactions while maintaining fiscal safety and security.
USE A CARD
You don’t have to have a credit card or even a bank account to participate in an increasingly cashless economy: The FDIC notes several prepaid card options are available, including:
- Reloadable prepaid cards—These cards allow you to add money later onto the card after your initial purchase. Some cards start out as non-reloadable but can be reloaded once you complete the issuer’s registration process.
- Payroll cards—Some employers are turning to using reloadable payroll cards instead of paychecks, which require cutting and depositing paperwork and processing. Ask your employer if payroll cards are offered at your workplace.
- Government benefit cards—Several government agencies, such as those providing unemployment insurance or food-assistance programs, upload benefits to EBT (electronic benefits transfer) cards, which then can be used for general or more specific purchases.
- College cards—Several colleges and universities offer reloadable cards that can be used on campus or at nearby stores and locations recognized on the network. Check with your school for availability.
- Gift cards—Gift cards can have a network logo that allows you to either use cards widely or only at certain retailers.
If you have a bank account, the FDIC reminds you that you have the ability to perform transactions from your computer, smartphone, or mobile device. If you aren’t currently using these services, ask your bank if any of these options are available and how to use them:
- Money transfer services—Payment services and apps let you send money without having to write a check, swipe a card, find a stamp, or handle cash.
- Online bill pay or ebill services—Sign up on your bank’s website to receive and pay bills electronically.
- Contactless payments—Often called “tap-and-go,” this option uses radio frequency identification (RFID) chip technology from your debit, credit, or smartcard to allow you to tap your card near a point-of-sale terminal to make a touchless transaction.
But don’t get dazzled by all the high-tech glamour. The FDIC says you still need to keep track of your money and use it wisely, just as you would if you were counting dollars in your purse or recording a transaction on a check register:
- Pay attention to purchases—Be sure to monitor your credit card bills and bank statements, as well as any app or online transactions for unauthorized purchases or withdrawals. Immediately contact your bank or the card provider if you see anything suspicious.
- Consider signing up for alert services—Many card issuers, banks, and mobile app providers offer services that notify you about certain account activities, such as recent logins from unrecognized devices.
- Protect yourself from scams—Scammers often create websites or email notifications that look very similar to those of popular, respected retailers. Be sure to only deal with reputable companies you are familiar with.
For additional fiscal assistance, licensees of the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Professional Fiduciaries Bureau (www.fiduciary.ca.gov) provide a wide variety of financial management services, and licensees of DCA’s California Board of Accountancy (www.dca.ca.gov/cba) are here to help you with all of your accounting needs. To check a fiduciary or accountant’s license, visit search.dca.ca.gov.
Related Reading: Need Some Help? Hire a Professional Fiduciary and Count on Certified Public Accountants