American Airlines announced that beginning next week, they will begin testing credit card only flights out of San Francisco. Jet Blue has said that it will stop accepting cash on flights next quarter. Other airlines that already don’t accept cash: AirTran, Frontier Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Midwest, ATA Airlines, Virgin America and Hawaiian Airlines. [Kansas City Star]

(Photo: Getty)


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  1. dbeahn says:

    Isn’t it illegal to not accept cash? I mean, right ON the cash it says “This note is legal tender for *all* debts, public and private” (emphasis mine).

  2. Beerad says:

    @dbeahn: Sorry, that’s only for “debts, public charges, taxes, and dues” under federal law. Private business can set pretty much whatever rules they want (although individual states can regulate that). The examples given by the handy-dandy US Treasury FAQ include gas stations that say “No bills over $20” and buses that only accept certain denomination coins. Totally legal.


  3. thepounder says:

    @Beerad: While it’s “legal”, it’s also stupid.

    Just because they can do it doesn’t mean they should.

    I get your point Beerad… I’m just saying they’re a bunch of douches for choosing that route.

  4. Dibbler says:

    @Beerad: So you’re saying that if the euro continues to grow in strength we could see companies only accept euros and not dollars?

  5. Beerad says:

    @Dibbler: I’m saying I could open a lemonade stand and insist on only accepting BeeradBucks ™ for payment. Given the low circulation of BeeradBucks ™, it’s probably not the best idea, though.

    Companies could only accept Euros (rather like most international airport duty free shops accept USD), although methinks it would be easier for all involved to just raise the prices in dollars.

    As a big proponent of the dollar coin (perhaps the only one in the country, apparently) I’ve always been irritated that New York buses don’t accept them (at least not the golden Sacajawea coins) in the farebox. 8 quarters or you’re out of luck.

  6. sleze69 says:

    /shrug – All this will do is slow down the service. Unless of course this is coupled with future price increases and the hope that people will be more likely to put $20 on their card rather than pull out a $20 bill.

  7. InThrees says:

    Situations like this boggle my mind every time.

    “We have decided that we don’t want your money enough to accept… your money.”

    Uh, ok. Fine then.

  8. Beerad says:

    @thepounder: Now, you wouldn’t happen to mean “I don’t like it one bit” rather than “it’s stupid” would you? Flight attendants have better things to be doing than making change for your Amstel Light, and it’s a pretty safe bet that you didn’t pay for your ticket with a wad of cash, so where’s the problem? It’s a lot more efficient for a business to not have to deal with cash (cutting out risk of theft, for one thing) and heaven knows the airline industry could use a healthy dose of efficiency.

  9. Buran says:

    Isn’t the airline industry just about the only industry that treats paying for its services in cash a reason to be suspicious of you!?!?

  10. beyond says:

    Its probably just so the stewardesses don’t have to carry around cash for change. Or their hiring standards are so low they can’t count.

    Anyway, they’ll be handing out credit card applications during the safety announcement, so it all works out!

  11. @Beerad: Why not just say “exact change only” then?

  12. Beerad says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: Because that doesn’t eliminate the hassle of dealing with cash?

    What’s everyone’s beef (so to speak) with charging a crappy in-flight meal, anyway? It’s not like they’re making you show your receipt as you disembark.

  13. What’s everyone’s beef (so to speak) with charging a crappy in-flight meal, anyway?

    @Beerad: I don’t fly so I don’t care. It just seemed like it wouldn’t be worth it to the airline after transaction fees.

  14. adamwade says:

    I’m one of those that has stopped flying domestically as well (the final straw for me, no pun intended, was when I was no longer able to bring my own beverage aboard), but this doesn’t really surprise me. It also won’t affect a terribly large portion of people – who shows up at the airline with cash in hand to buy a ticket and pay those kind of crazy “full fares”? The only way to get decent fares is to shop online with a credit card anyway.

    I understand the reason some people might get upset over this, but really it’s not going to change very much at all. There is so much privacy invasion at the airport that your credit card number is the least worry.

  15. BigHeadStu says:

    I dunno, honestly, I kinda like it. I don’t really carry cash at all anymore…so when Midwest began charging for their meals and it was cash only, I was sad cause I couldn’t buy one–and BTW, they are WORTH buying…a LOT better than ANYTHING you can get in the A Terminal at DCA before your board. So hey, if it’s worth the money, I don’t care at all they don’t take cash…

  16. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    Hmm I am suprised no one has started allowing you to pre pay for snacks and drinks either when you buy the ticket or at check-in? Maybe they do but I haven’t seen it.

  17. mammalpants says:

    what about paypal? it would be great if i could order a beverage, have the flight attendant retrieve an easy-to-use gadget, select MENU>Beverage>Cold>Mixed>Bloody Mary>Small>Paypal, then go to the user account screen, which would allow me to enter my email address, account number, and the paypal account number of the appropriate airline. after receiving a confirmation email, i could get my beverage! a quick and easy 4.5 minute transaction!! great idea, mr airplane! also, i would like to thank god and the failing bankrupt airline industry for making this all impossible! without you, things could be done! goodnight, everyone!!

  18. uricmu says:

    Maybe I’m naive, but don’t you need to do an online validation of credit cards? (or perhaps that is for debit cards only?). I’m not sure how they can do it in the sky.

  19. thepounder says:

    @Beerad: Actually no… it’s part of their job to get me a beverage of my choice if I’m paying for it.

    They can kiss my backside if they have “better things to do” than pay a bit of attention to a paying customer; me.

    Like I said, I get your point… but don’t bother attacking me for having an opinion. thank you.

  20. catskyfire says:

    I admit, I would find this very annoying. I have done some flying, and purchased some snack items. The one thing I really remembered, is that every card had to be run through the machine. (Whether they were using satellite technology to validate immediately, or just storing it for data upload later, I don’t know.) this meant that for every card pulled out, the attendant had to go up to the front of the cabin. This wasted a lot of time, while others were still waiting.

    IF they have the machine on their person, I could see this. (And I have seen this sort of device.) Otherwise, I could see insisting on exact bills. I’m guessing that’s part of the real issue. Twenty people pulling out twenties for 3 bucks worth of items.

  21. nweaver says:

    a: Excat change only would be MORE inconvenient for most people than credit card only. Do you always have a $5 bill in your pocket for that “catfood for humans” snack box?

    b: Do you guys fly enough to witness the F@#)*( hastles flight attendants have with having enough change? Having to go back to customers later?

    c: 99% of the people on the plane bough their ticket with a credit card.

  22. Keter says:

    @DBEAHN – It isn’t illegal, BUT, if the offer of a product is made and a price set, then the offered cash is refused, there is some question of whether the offer was converted into a gift, because cash is always legal tender. I doubt you’ll get your snack box, though.

  23. ThePlaz says:

    I think the thing airlines don’t want to worry about is cash flow. Someone needs to go in after every flight and empty out the collection box. All of that needs to recorded or else some money will be taken off the top.

    CC are easier to collect for both parties. They should also allow the RFID cards and then it would go very fast.

    CC readers don’t need to be online (ever wonder how street fest vendors accept cards?). They just need to be plugged in and downloaded.

  24. Floobtronics says:

    @uricmu: I was just thinking the same thing. So, get a pre-paid Visa gift card (pay cash for it!), activate it from a payphone (or online using tor to disguise yourself), drain it, and use it onboard planes for a free meal, you know, like the kind you used to get when you bought a ticket.

    Personally, I wouldn’t do it. I suppose I’m a bit too honest.

  25. kc2idf says:


    As a big proponent of the dollar coin (perhaps the only one in the country, apparently)

    No, you’re not alone. Our neighbours to the north have done it, and we should too, along with some other things they have done (metric system, anyone?) and we have not.

  26. Refering to “All debts public and private” discussion: Yes, it’s only legal for “debts, public charges, taxes, and dues” – however, there’s a large chunk of change of an airline ticket that goes towards taxes. You should be able to pay the tax portion in cash, even if it’s just to piss off the airline.
    And on top of that, the entire airline industry is at least partially subsidized by the US Government – which means that someone MIGHT be able to argue in court that they are no longer a “private” business and not subject to the same laws. For example:
    – Security checkpoints are government mandated and in some cases government staffed
    – Federal marshalls on airplanes are, obviously, federal
    – The big loan a few years ago to prevent bankruptcy came from the government – and not many companies get saved by Congress personally.
    – Even the air above your house, where the airplanes fly, isn’t legally yours, it’s the state’s, which means that airplanes are federally regulated even while in the air (this came into play in the 50’s or so, to determine who owned the moon – since, you know, it only flew over certain countries. Fun legal battles.).
    – I’m sure there’s also an argument regarding how airlines fly over state lines, and how the laws of the states departure vs arrival point matters, but I can’t find any reference material and can’t be bothered. Someone go google for me!