Your Money Is Good Here: Colorado Retailers Must Soon Accept Your Cash As Payment, Or Face A Penalty

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Mike Hartkom, who owns Solar Roast Coffee in Pueblo and Colorado Springs, juggles how to keep his business open, and his employees and customers healthy, during the coronavirus pandemic. Seats are stacked and there cash register is behind plexiglass at his Colorado Springs store on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020.

Colorado retailers will soon be required to accept your cash as payment, not just plastic. 

Gov. Jared Polis signed into law the “Retail Business Must Accept Cash” bill on May 12. It goes into effect later in the summer.

Because of the pandemic, some retail businesses began limiting their forms of payment to credit cards or through mobile phones to reduce physical contact and the risk of coronavirus transmission, but one state lawmaker raised concerns that it would be a barrier to Coloradans without access to those forms of payment. 

State House Rep. Alex Valdez, the Democrat who sponsored the bill, said in March that he received calls early on from constituents that they were unable to pay at stores. One woman told him she had to walk 14 blocks to buy milk after her usual store refused to accept cash.  

Valdez said in March that “we need to be conscious that when we put a requirement to have a card … what we’re really saying is you have to be bankable in order to purchase here.”

The new law leaves an exception for businesses that rely on machines only to accept payments. Businesses that violate the new requirement could face a fine of up to $250.

Polis’ gave the bill his signature, but added some words of warning about its implementation. He wrote in a signing letter that he agreed with the bill’s purpose but added that it was “unclear who would be charged with the petty offense” the bill creates.

“Does it apply to the retail establishment? The manager on duty?” Polis said in his letter. “The individual at the counter who refuses to accept the cash? This type of ambiguity is unhelpful and may render this bill practically unenforceable.”

The governor urged the General Assembly to clarify these penalties in future legislation. 

Editor's note: This post has been updated to reflect that the penalty retailers face is $250.