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Colorado State Fair Goes Cashless

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Cash won’t get you far at the Colorado State Fair this year. Fair vendors will only be accepting a smart card form of payment.

After entering the park, visitors will purchase a smart card for $1 and then use cash or credit cards to load them. The cards are valid for five years and are renewable annually when additional money is added to the card.

Colorado Sate Fair General Manager Chris Wiseman says they are the first state fair to completely eschew cash. That's something that puts them ahead of even Disney theme parks.

Why drop greenbacks?

The cards will allow the Colorado State Fair to restructure its payment system, there’s also a revenue motive.

Typically, concessionaires collect the money from customers, then they take the money to the fair and the fair takes its percentage. With a cashless system, the fair collects the money, then concessionaires present receipts from purchases and are paid by the fair.

“I don’t want to say that concessionaires aren’t always paying the [right] amount but it appears that other fairs that have gone to this system have seen an increase in their revenue," said Wiseman.

There’s also the argument that the cards are more secure than cash. People who lose their card can get them replaced if they enabled the PIN function.

“I think this gives families more mobility because some parents from time to time worry about giving their kids cash," said Wiseman. "They’ll be able to give them a smart card, knowing that if they lose it, it’s not like dropping a $20, $10 or $50 on the ground you’re going to get that money back if you use a pin number."

The fairruns this year from Aug. 23 to Sept. 2 in Pueblo. During the two weeks after the fair, card purchasers will be able to obtain a refund by visiting the Colorado State Fair box office only if their card balance is below $5 or above $50.

“Under $5 it’s hard to make a purchase at the fair, but over $5 you’ll still be able to do that,” said Wiseman. “Over $50 we just don’t want to carry that much liability over time."

Have more than $5 but less than $50? You won’t be eligible for a refund, but the card will be valid for next year’s fair. Or there is the charity route. Wiseman says cardholders will also have the option to donate their remaining balance as they exit the fair to the Colorado State Fair Foundation for youth programs to support 4H and FFA programs.

My journalism career started in college when I worked as a reporter and Weekend Edition host for WEKU-FM, an NPR member station in Richmond, KY. I graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a B.A. in broadcast journalism.
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