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Cash payment is probably the second-oldest form of payment known to man, the oldest being barter. It has been decreasing in popularity over the last several decades, due to the rise of more convenient paper and electronic payment methods. Today, there are many people who rarely if ever use cash for anything!

I am not one of those people that never uses cash, or considers it an anachronism or whatever. I do think it has its place. Specifically, the biggest advantages of cash are its convenience and simplicity for small purchases. If I walk into an electronics store to buy a $5 adapter, there's really no point in whipping out the credit card for that, or writing a check. It's also considerate to the retailer to use cash for such purchases, because it saves them expense and time.

However, I don't think it has any role to play in larger purchases, nor in online or mail order purchases at all. The main problem with cash from the standpoint of someone making a mail order or online purchase is that it is anonymous and untraceable. When you pay by cash, unless you get a receipt immediately, you have absolutely no proof of purchase. And when you buy by mail order or online, you don't get a receipt.

This is why I tell people to never send cash in the mail. Not only is there the real possibility of the envelope actually not getting where you are sending it, even if it gets there you open yourself to all sorts of possible issues if the payment is "misplaced", if you catch my drift. And you will have no recourse whatsoever if this happens. For this reason many mail order or online vendors won't even accept cash. At any rate, if you are going to prepay instead of using a credit card, use a money order, which at least has some security to it, and costs less than a dollar in the U.S. for values up to $700.

I generally use cash for in-person retail purchases of under about $20 or so. Even in person, I won't use cash for larger purchases because of the hassle of getting large amounts of cash, and because I don't like walking around with so much money in my pockets.

Next: Money Orders and Certified Checks

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