2009 comebacks: Cash is king

Uncle Sam at the ATMFor awhile, cash looked doomed. Some businesses, like A&TT Wireless Store, have been known to tack on an extra charge when their customers pay their bill with actual dollars and cents. Almost everyone seems to use a debit card these days. For years, critics have wanted to abolish the penny, and there's even been some not-so serious discussion about the merits of getting rid of the nickel and dime. And, for what it's worth, I thought cash was losing its luster in the world; I wrote about cash's likely demise for CreditCards.com almost a year ago, talking about how the lack of cash was hurting professions like street performers.

But then the economy tanked, and everyone's rethinking the idea of just going around willy-nilly with a debit card and making purchases and then later, tallying everything up and seeing what's left in the bank account. I know I've been using cash more and pleased to see all of my old friends. George Washington is still on the $1. Good ol' Abe Lincoln's on the $5. Alexander Hamilton is on the $10. That's President Andrew Jackson on the $20...

Apparently I'm not alone. Suddenly, according to a lot of speculation in the media as well as corporations stating it as already happening, it's looking as though in this budget-conscious economy, more people than ever will be using cash to pay for their purchases.

Certainly, businesses would prefer if people paid with cash instead of plastic, because retailers are always hammered with transaction fees that they have to pay the credit card companies. Some businesses have even gone to a cash-only payment model.

And there is some evidence to suggest that if you're willing to pay cash, you will be treated like royalty, or at least live like royalty with the money you can potentially save. Last year, some gas stations began offering discounts to drivers who pay in cash, and Hyundai just announced its "Smart Advantage Pricing" program, which will save customers some serious money if they're willing to pay for their car with cash instead of credit ($3,000 less, for instance, if you buy a Sonata).

So if you're thinking about switching over to paying for your purchases with paper and silver, you're not alone. In fact, cash may just be the next big thing in the greening of America.

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