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When To Use Cash: Yes, Sometimes Cash is Still King

When it comes to dollars and tech sense, I consider myself relatively up-to-date. I’ve been known to use Apple Pay on occasion; I’m down with depositing checks via smartphone; and I even have Venmo. However, recently I realized that I am living under a completely different belief system than my kids: namely, that cash is still relevant in today’s economy.

Cash vs. Credit

This summer, I gave my oldest son a ride to the airport. Just as I was about to drop him off, I asked him if he had any cash. He looked at me like I was an alien and responded, “No. Why would I need it?” I opened my wallet and handed him some cash, murmuring, “Just in case, Honey.”

I found myself repeating that refrain when Son #2 loaded up his car for his eight-hour road trip back to college, and then again when my daughter flew across the country for college. Same look, same response: “No. Why would I need it?”

Three for three. Rather than absorb yet another parenting fail, I realized I needed a compelling answer to that question. Sure, it may be a rare occurrence when teens actually need cash—thanks to credit cards, Venmo, Apple Pay, and meal swipes—but if they’re on their own, they do need to have cash on hand.

When You Still May Need Cash:


If the car your kid is driving does not have an EZ Pass, make sure they know that cash is required, and they need to be in the correct lane!


Be sure they know that restaurant servers, parking attendants, barbers, manicurists, hair stylists, and skycaps at the airport all rely on tips as part of their income. A good rule of thumb is 15-20% for service workers, $3-5 for the valet, and $2 per bag for the skycap.

Small purchases

Many places have a minimum dollar amount before using a credit card.


Not all meters and lots accept cards.


Their credit card may not work where they are going, or they may be in a truly remote area that doesn’t have service to use payment apps. Plus, credit cards are often subject to hefty foreign transaction fees.

Perhaps the best reason to carry and use cash, however, comes from the banker I spoke with when withdrawing money to replenish my stash after giving it all away to my kids: budgeting. He said that he prefers to use cash because it’s easier to visualize how he’s spending his money. If he begins the week with $50 to use for miscellaneous items and that money is gone by Wednesday, he’s not tempted to use another means of payment.

Helping our kids understand the value of money? Priceless.

Jody has spent her life around teens, as a teacher and as a parent of three.

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