To argue that there will still be a receptive public for the new notes, Treasury officials on Friday pointed to Federal Reserve data that show a steady increase in the amount of currency in circulation. The $20 bills will feature Tubman, the former slave, abolitionist and suffragist, instead of the slave-owning President Andrew Jackson; $10 bills will feature five suffragists on the back; and $5 bills will honor on the back Eleanor Roosevelt, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the African-American classical singer Marian Anderson.
From 1995 to 2015, the number of paper notes in circulation more than doubled, to more than 38 billion from just over 17 billion. Much of that is used in transactions outside this country, since the dollar is the international exchange currency.
“We may be a cashless society one day, but not as soon as some imagine,” Mark Patterson, a former Treasury chief of staff, wrote in an email.
He added: “A lot of people dislike paying with a device, even if it’s more convenient. (See the lines at non-EZPass toll lanes.) Many Americans remain unbanked, making electronic payments impossible. And as long as there are babysitters, bellhops, doormen, street vendors and Christmas stockings, there will be cash.”