Carrying cash as part of your EDC: Six reasons why you should (Part 1 of 3)

EDC Cash

We spend a lot of time talking about the mindset and gear that makes up your Primary, Secondary and Extended EDC, but we haven’t covered a key component of it: money. A necessary part of life, paying for goods, food, services, and even help is essential to day-to-day life. Technology has created a heavy dependence on electronic payments via debit and credit cards, but cash is still king. 

Check out all of this 3-part series as we cover why you should be intentional about carrying cash:

  1. Part 1: Six reasons why you should carry cash (current article)
  2. Part 2: How much cash you should carry
  3. Part 3: How to carry cash
EDC Cash

In a 2013 Money Magazine poll, it was revealed that over 80% of Americans carry less than $100. There’s a good chance you fall into that group of people and while not bad, carrying cash should be something that you intentionally think through and practice.

carrying cash survey results from money magazine

A breakdown of the survey results:

  • 42% carry $1-$40
  • 30% carry $41-$99
  • 17% carry $100-$199
  • 11% carry $200 or more

Why is having cash on you important? Let’s look at six reasons why.

#1 It gives you options

Being prepared for the unexpected is at the heart of EDC. As you go about your daily life, you’re able to enjoy what you are doing because you are prepared.

Paying for goods, food, services or help is something we all have to do. When you rely solely on a debit or credit card to pay for the goods/food/service/help, you are putting access to these necessities in the hands of a third party.

Cash gives you options. It creates redundancy in your system so you have multiple ways to get what you need, which is critical to a successful EDC.

#2 You can be a fair (and generous) tipper

The art of a good tip is becoming more and more lost as the world transitions from cash to electronic payments. Likely, most of you reading this article held a tip-based job earlier in your life and know how much they are appreciated, especially if you are working a long shift and really try to serve your customers.

People you come across who appreciate a cash tip:

  • Bartender
  • Waitress
  • Valet parking (even free valet parking at some hospitals and restaurants have staff whose income is primarily tip-based)
  • Barista making your coffee
  • The person cutting your hair
  • Delivery person (pizza, UPS, mailman, etc.)

Being a fair and generous tipper can come in handy if a situation was to happen where you needed the assistance of others. If you want the woman giving you a haircut to take her time and do a better job, tip her well. If you’re traveling for work and want the help of the hotel staff, whether you just need directions or if a catastrophic event happened, tip them well. If your waitress is doing a great job, make her day and tip her well. If your UPS driver seems to stop at your house every day for another Amazon order, tip them well.

Generosity feels good and giving a good tip is a way to express gratitude for a service provided well. 

#3 You are never caught without the ability to pay

You carry an American Express credit card and find yourself at a restaurant that doesn’t accept it. Your morning purchase to an online vendor based out of Europe puts a temporary fraud alert on your account. You inadvertently pay the wrong bill and your credit card payment is late and additional transactions are declined. The power goes out at a restaurant and you need to leave. All of these are things have happened to us here at Option Gray and were all reasons why we couldn’t pay with a card.

In addition, processing credit and debit cards is dependent on your card magnetic strip or chip working, the swiper at the merchant to work, an internet/phone connection, the processor networks to be live and your bank’s online communication to be working. It just takes one of these being down to prevent a debit or credit card from being approved.

It can be embarrassing and uncomfortable if you’re ever caught without the ability to pay your bill. If you plan for the unexpected, you can easily cover the tab in cash and handle the issue with your bank at a later time. 

#4 Some places still don’t accept credit cards

If you live in a concentrated urban area it’s not as common, but there are still places that only accept cash. And, if they do accept credit cards, they may require a minimum purchase, as credit card fees for low-volume businesses can be 3% or even more. 

Private transactions, such as shopping at a farmer’s market or flea market, or buying something off of Craigslist, will also likely happen in cash.

Although most stores, restaurants and other businesses accept credit cards, it’s important to assume and plan that someone won’t and you want to make sure you’re able to pay. The redundancy that cash can give you, as we talked about in #1, prepares you for when you have to pay via cash.

#5 No opportunity for identity theft

Even if you’re following common-sense precautions, the person handling your credit or debit card may not be. Identity theft is a huge problem. Handing your card over to someone means you are opening up the opportunity for your card number to be stolen. 

One time we had a whopping $850 charge on a debit card from a legitimate business we had shopped at 10 months prior. It took over a week to get everything figured out (turns out a bad employee had illegally charged our card and pocketed the cash) and that money was inaccessible from our checking account. If you’re lucky enough to get resolution, and many people do not, your money is still frozen until the bank or business refunds your money.

Paying with cash protects your personal information.

#6 Cash is still king

Probably the most important on this list, cash buys things when you need it, regardless of most circumstances.

Whether it be the power going out, a natural disaster happening, or a terrorist attack, catastrophes can happen at any time. If credit card processing is down, the ability to get food, water or even find a way out is dependent on how much cash you have on you at one time.

When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast of the US back in 2012, significant power outages occurred.  Lines for gasoline in Newark, NJ were over two miles long–and that’s a line of people, not cars. Convenience stores were open but only on a cash-only basis. There was no option to use an ATM.

Having cash sets you up for success because it talks when nothing else will.

We’ll talk more in Part 2 about how much you should carry, but having cash on your person, as well as accessible in other places, allows a second choice when you need it.

Cody Martin

With over 18 years of federal law enforcement, training, and physical security experience, Cody focuses his time nowadays on both consulting and training. He regularly advises individuals, groups, multinational corporations, schools, houses of worship, and NGOs on security threats while conducting customized training as needed.

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