Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Park Moving to Cashless Fee System

Ah, peak springtime, with the promise of summer coming up fast. It’s almost time to pack the kids into the family wagon, throw the tents, sleeping bags, and propane stove into the back, and head out on adventures in America’s national parks.

If your backcountry plans include Rocky Mountain National Park, be prepared to leave your cash at home. Starting June 1, the Colorado park will be on a fully cashless system that accepts only mobile or electronic payments for fees related to park entrance and permits.

Under the auspices of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, national parks keep 80% of the fees they collect. Those funds are then churned into projects to improve services and protect park resources. According to a National Park Service news release, the cashless system will reduce the time and money spent managing cash, thus allowing more of the fees to go directly toward park projects and visitor services.

What About Elsewhere?

Sixty-three national parks are scattered through 30 states and two U.S. territories, each with its own operations. A list can be found here. Prospective visitors should acquaint themselves with the fee policies and procedures before they head out.

The National Park Service’s park locator includes not just parks but also memorials, battlefields, historical sites, and more. Fee details are available on the websites for each location.

The influence of cash has clearly waned, a long-term trend that was accelerated by the onset of the pandemic. The future of cash—or the lack of one—remains a subject of much debate.

A Javelin Strategy & Research whitepaper published in March, titled Health of Payments, took a data-driven look at consumers’ behavior toward payments. The report, which was sponsored by NCR, noted that credit and debit top the list of consumers’ preferences, followed by cash. More than that, though, consumers overwhelmingly want a full range of choices in how they pay for goods and services. Cutting those choices is a gamble—perhaps a reasonable one, given how Rocky Mountain Park proposes to use the money freed up from the obligations of managing cash.

“While removing cash can save money and time for a merchant, it removes a payment option that is still popular among consumers despite its declining usage,” said Daniel Keyes, Senior Analyst for Merchant Services at Javelin Strategy & Research. “Consumers want to be able to pay in whatever way they prefer, and taking away an option as popular as cash can frustrate customers.”

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