While a handful of states and cities are passing laws requiring retailers to accept cash, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons and Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United, will go completely cashless March 10.
Stadium management announced the new policy Monday, and it takes effect with Atlanta United’s upcoming home opener. In a press release, stadium operator AMB Group, parent company of the Falcons and Atlanta United, said all food concession stands, restaurants and bars, and souvenir and merchandise stations within the stadium’s gated perimeter will be cashless. Acceptable payment forms include general-purpose credit and debit cards and contactless forms, including mobile payments.
Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays in January became the first major U.S. sports team to announce that its stadium, Tropicana Field, would go cashless and rolled the policy out at a fan festival, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. But since Atlanta United’s season starts earlier than the baseball season, Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be the first to implement cashless payments at sports events, the newspaper said.
“Eliminating the need to make change allows for quicker transaction times and lower wait times, making the fan experience even better,” AMB Group’s release says. “The cashless model allows the stadium to operate more efficiently and effectively, giving our service teams the opportunity to focus more on the guest.”
The release also says the cashless model provides “more flexibility to lower prices on food items more frequently,” and later adds that “cashless models have proven to be a safer model to implement across the retail and hospitality industries.”
For fans who don’t have or don’t want to use credit or debit cards or a mobile app, 10 so-called ReadyStation cash-accepting kiosks that sell Visa prepaid cards will be placed throughout the stadium. The prepaid cards have no load fees and can be used throughout the stadium as well as at any non-stadium Visa-accepting merchant. Load amounts are a minimum of $10, with a $1,000 maximum.
AMB Group simultaneously announced it would lower prices on some food items, including hot dogs. But the stadium also is ending its whole-dollar pricing policy, which it implemented to speed cash transactions and which included sales taxes. Instead, consumers will now be charged sales taxes up front, which will reduce their savings on the lower-priced items.
Two promotions are being timed with the cashless switch. Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks is offering 5% cash back on all items purchased inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium using its cards, excluding tickets and parking. And Apple Inc.’s Apple Pay mobile-payments service says users will receive instant rewards on purchases inside the venue.
The only cash-accepting exceptions will be for third-party vendors, such as concert promoters, playing host to events inside the building and selling merchandise.
Stadiums are beginning to go cashless while some state and local governments are banning cashless stores on grounds they limit payment options for cash-oriented lower-income consumers. Philadelphia’s mayor last week signed an ordinance requiring most retailers to accept cash, and the New York City Council is considering a similar measure. New Jersey’s legislature recently passed a bill requiring cash acceptance.