A benefit of running a cash-only business is lower transaction costs. There is no need to pay fees to rent or own credit card processing equipment, or for credit card transactions. There is also no waiting period since payments are made upfront, and no risk of chargebacks due to fraud or bounced checks. Opportunities for cash-only businesses include:
Lower Transaction Costs: Handling cash transactions can be straightforward and reduce operational costs. There is no need for complex point-of-sale systems or payment processing services, and no downtime due to payment system outages or technical issues. While cash-only businesses need to account for expenses related to cash handling equipment (like ATMs, safes or cash drawers), and costs associated with bank deposits, cash transactions typically do not involve transaction fees or processing charges, which can be a significant cost savings. These fees can range from approximately 1% to 3% or more of payments, including interchange fees (paid to card-issuing banks), assessment fees (paid to card networks like Visa or Mastercard), and payment gateway fees (if using an online payment processor).
Immediate Access to Funds: Cash payments provide immediate access to revenue, eliminating the need to wait for credit card or digital payment settlements.
Reduced Risk of Chargebacks: Reduced risk of payment processing disputes and associated costs processing issues since cash payments cannot be disputed or charged back by customers.
Better Privacy: For customers concerned about their financial information being hacked, shared, or exposed, cash transactions don’t leave a digital trace, and are less susceptible to fraud such as card skimming, or identity theft.
Easier Budgeting: Cash transactions can simplify and reduce administrative burdens associated with accounting, budgeting, and cash flow management. Managing cash transactions can be simpler than dealing with electronic payments and credit card reconciliations.
Access to Unbanked Customers: Cash-only businesses can cater to individuals who don’t have access to bank accounts.
Audits of cash-only businesses are more likely since the IRS is aware of the possibility the business might report lower income to reduce their taxes (1099 and W-2 taxes, for example), especially in the absence of a detailed paper trail. Payments with fraudulent bills and employees skimming money may also pose financial risks. Cash-only businesses may also face greater security risks from gangs and criminals.
Security Concerns: Handling large amounts of cash can pose security risks, including theft and the potential for employee fraud. Businesses may need to invest in additional security measures.
Limited Customer Base: In industries where electronic payments are the norm, being cash-only can put a business at a competitive disadvantage. Cash transactions do not offer the same flexibility as digital payments. Some customers may prefer or exclusively use digital payment methods, limiting a cash-only business’s customer base.
Record-Keeping and Tax Evasion Risks: Cash transactions can be more challenging to track and record accurately, which can lead to accounting and tax compliance issues. Operating as a cash-only business may tempt business owners to underreport income, raising suspicion and scrutiny from tax authorities, and could be subject to money laundering investigations.
Limited Financial History: Businesses that primarily deal in cash may have limited financial records, making it challenging to scale a business, secure loans or attract investors.
Examples and Industry Classifications of Cash-Only Businesses
The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is used in the United States, Canada, and Mexico to classify and categorize businesses based on their primary economic activities. The major NAICS industry categories are organized into sectors, subsectors, industry groups, and industries. Some examples of cash-only businesses that can be found in various major NAICS industry categories include:
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting (NAICS Sector 11)
- Farmers’ market vendors
- Local farms selling produce
- Greenhouse and nursery businesses
Food and Beverage (NAICS Sector 44-45)
- Food trucks and street vendors often prefer cash payments due to their mobile nature and the simplicity of cash transactions.
- Small, family-owned restaurants, especially those with limited seating and lower transaction volumes, may prefer cash, including coffee stands and kiosks.
Retail Trade (NAICS Sector 44-45)
- Flea market vendors and independent craft sellers often operate as cash-only businesses at local markets.
- Small retail shops, boutiques, and pawn shops may accept cash as the primary payment method.
Personal Services (NAICS Sector 81)
- Hair and nail salons and barbershops may accept cash payments, especially from walk-in customers.
- Massage therapists, aestheticians, and other personal service providers may also prefer cash transactions.
Transportation and Warehousing (NAICS Sector 48-49)
- Taxi drivers frequently accept cash payments from passengers.
- Some independent truck drivers and courier services may operate on a cash-only basis.
- Food delivery drivers.
Construction (NAICS Sector 23)
- Small construction contractors, such as independent electricians, plumbers, carpenters, home remodelers, and roofing and siding contractors may prefer cash payments for their services.
- Handymen and home repair services, Hauling and waste removal services, and dumpster rental businesses often accept cash from clients.
Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation (NAICS Sector 71)
- Street performers and buskers often rely on cash tips from passersby.
- Event photographers and DJs.
- Ticket resellers (scalpers) for events may prefer cash transactions.
Health Care and Social Assistance (NAICS Sector 62)
- Some acupuncture and alternative medicine practitioners and wellness providers may operate cash-only practices.
- Yoga instructors and fitness trainers.
- Therapists, counselors, and chiropractors in private practice may accept cash payments from clients.
Other Services (except Public Administration) (NAICS Sector 81)
- Religious organizations, especially smaller churches and places of worship may rely on cash donations.
- Personal and laundry services, like dry cleaners and laundromats, often accept cash payments.
- Lawn care, landscaping, and house cleaning services.
- Auto maintenance and repair including independent auto mechanics, Tire repair and maintenance shops, Car washes and detailing services.
An important responsibility of any business is great accounting. Crediture.com can help. Cash-only businesses must keep track of the money flowing both in and out, including gross income and expenses, by keeping receipts or digital invoices including basic information such as the transaction date, subtotal, total, services provided, or products sold. Payroll transactions must also be carefully recorded keeping track of salaries and benefits, and payroll taxes paid. Ultimately, the decision to run a cash-only business should be based on the preference of the business owner and their target customers. It’s essential to weigh the benefits and risks, and to carefully consider all the factors discussed in this article.