MONEY

Cash Costs U.S. Businesses $40 Billion a Year

A study found that dealing with cash has its expenses. But is America ready to say good bye to cold hard cash?
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An in-depth new study from Tufts University found that the use of cash costs United States businesses a total of $55 billion a year. While the study found that the overwhelming majority of the costs were due to theft, the businesses surveyed weren't ready to give it up for electronic alternatives.

The study, conducted by senior associate dean Bhaskar Chakravorti and postdoctoral research fellow Benjamin Mazzotta, surveyed 130 owners of small-to-medium-sized businesses in a cross-section of industries, including entertainment, transportation, food, health care, lodging, and more. The responses were then analyzed with data from the US Federal Reserve, McKinsey, the National Retail Security, and the US Economic Census.

The most costly burden the researchers found was retail theft, which accounts for $40 billion a year. And get this: Cash theft losses are greater than bad checks, credit card fraud, refund fraud, and internet fraud combined, according to FBI statistics cited in the study. 

The study found that businesses surveyed spend less then half a percent of gross sales on security measures per year, only 10 percent use armored car services, and 20 percent use time-entry safes. The study claimed that small businesses are at a higher risk of theft because they typically make their own deposits and do not invest in security measures (whereas larger retailers do).

The second highest cash cost was ATM operations, which racked up a total $6 billion a year, while transporting cash cost businesses a total of $5 billion.

Yet even with all these pain points, the small businesses surveyed do not see cash as a "cost driver" and do not believe changing modes of payment would positively affect labor costs or security costs unless there was a "huge shift in consumer payment behavior towards non-cash payments."

According to Euromonitor, the volume of cash usage across customers have decreased from 43 percent to 37 percent from 2005 to 2010. However, business owners said that's not enough. The survey found business owners said there needs to be a 20 percent decrease for them to feel relief.

IMAGE: Shutterstock
Last updated: Sep 20, 2013

WILL YAKOWICZ | Staff Writer | Reporter, Inc.com

Will Yakowicz is a staff writer for Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and local politics for The Brooklyn Paper and was the editor of Park Slope Patch. He has also reported in the West Bank and Moscow for Tablet Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.




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