Cashed Out: My Disdain for the Currency Exchange& Other Predatory Businesses

Everything in the hood is based on convenience.

We’ve all been here before.

We have the same 5-10 businesses in our neighborhood because it’s convenient. It’s not unusual to see a strip mall or plaza with a currency exchange, liquor store, Gyro/wing store, Jackson Hewitt, and beauty supply. Each one of these businesses is designed to keep us in our own neighborhood.

The one business that always open and packed with customers is the currency exchange or the check cashing center. (They’re all the same.) Chances are if you’re a young black person living in any urban neighborhood in America, you’re spent a nice amount of time in the currency exchange or checking cashing center. Whether it’s to buy a bus pass, send or receive a Western Union or to cash a check, you’ve been there.

I actually like to refer to the Currency Exchange as the Bank of the Hood. It’s the place where people without bank accounts cash their checks. It’s the place where many of the elderly continue to pay their People’s gas or ComEd bill. You can also buy the vehicle stickers for your car. Just like any business, it has to make money so they charge you for every service.
There’s a 5 cent tax on mailing stamps. Chicago vehicle stickers are $75 but you’ll pay $80 at the Currency Exchange. If you’re cashing a check, depending on the amount, they’ll take a percentage out. Similar to the payday loan stores that prey upon our neighborhood, the currency exchange is a business that we should perhaps see less of.
There’s just no reason for there to be 5 check cashing places in a 3 mile radius. We have to find other ways to encourage people to take care of their business. They know we don’t trust the banks so they continue to thrive.  I can rattle off several locations that are open @ 2am in Chicago. Don’t get me wrong, I am not an advocate of the banks. If keeping your money in a shoebox works for you, then go for it.

But having a check cashing place on every corner is just as bad as having a liquor store on every corner.

My main issue is there is no one to help these people to better manage their money. The woman at the counter inside of a Currency Exchange isn’t going to tell you to get direct deposit on a prepaid card so you can pay your bills by phone or online. She isn’t going to advise you to purchase your city stickers from the city clerk’s office to avoid the unnecessary fees. She’s trying to eat too.
The system of using the Currency Exchange and other places like it is etched in our brains. At one time, I believed that was the only place you could obtain get city stickers.  I hate the Currency Exchange like some people hate the Bank of America.
But I continue to find myself there.
Where else can you get a roll of quarters on a Sunday?

Cashed Out,

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