By  Thu Jan 13, 2011

Using Only Cash: How to Survive the Cash-Only Lifestyle

Free checking accounts are following the dodo bird in the path towards extinction as federal regulations continue making life difficult for banks. Fear of credit cards still looms among U.S. consumers. Is a cash-only lifestyle possible for unsatisfied banking customers?

You may be one of many banking customers who’ve become increasingly frustrated with the constant account and fee restructuring by banks. In revolt of the changes, many checking account holders are ditching the bank for the trustworthiness of cash.

With the world trending towards easy mobile payments and electronic banking, trying to survive solely on cash seems like an impossible feat. Yet, according to a 2009 survey by the FDIC, nearly 9 million U.S. households went about their days without a bank account.

You might wonder how you’d be able to cash your paycheck or more importantly, how to take advantage of that once-in-a-lifetime deal on Amazon. These questions don’t currently pose a major problem for consumers with checking accounts and debit or credit cards – until they consider sticking to a cash-only policy.

While it’ll be more inconvenient and time-consuming, surviving on a cash-only lifestyle isn’t an impossible mission:

Cashing Your Paycheck

The two primary methods of cashing your paycheck is through direct deposit or through an ATM/bank teller – both require a checking account.

Without one, you’d request your employer to issue paper checks and deposit them at check-cashing centers. These checking-cashing places will charge a fee that equals a small percentage of the check you are cashing. Roughly one out of three banks will cash checks for non-customers, but they also take a cut out of your check.

Paying the Bills

Gone are the simple days of automated online bill pay or 3-click online payments. Utility bills will have to be paid most likely via mail or by visiting payment centers.

If you want to mail in your bill payments, you’d have to purchase a money order. At payment centers, cash is perfectly fine. Either way, you won’t be able to pay your bills in the comfort of your own home.

Some utility companies now offer the ability to pay online or by phone with a debit or credit card. For the cash-only consumer, the only way to use this payment method is to get a prepaid debit card.

Shopping at Stores and Online

Generally, retailers love it when you pay with cash because they don’t get nicked with an interchange fee for processing a debit or credit card.

But, we currently do plenty of shopping on the Internet. Forms of payment other than a debit or credit card are rarely accepted. Therefore, you will need to pickup a prepaid debit card if you wish to go on online shopping sprees.

Investing for the Future

Investment brokerages typically do not accept cash as a security measure against money laundering. The only other way to fund your investment accounts would be money orders – required even if you decide to deposit in person at a brokerage branch.

The Cash-Only Lifestyle Costs Time and Money

Surviving the cash-only lifestyle involves constant traveling and multiple fees. You will be running around your town to cash your check, to visit payment centers, to buy money orders, and to refill prepaid debit cards.

It’s ironic when your steadfast position against checking account fees ends up costing more than the fees themselves. There are costs to cash your check, buying stamps, and purchasing money orders. After considering the nickel-and-diming, you might rethink sticking with cash only.

But, if you remain adamant about the cash-only lifestyle, you can survive by replacing checks and debit/credit cards with money orders and prepaid debit cards.

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