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Not ready to go cashless

The sound of Anthony Lovison's singing echoes through the corridors of the Montreal subway, reaching commuters' ears long before they see the young brown-haired man and his guitar.

Barely a minute into "Heaven's Door," a man walks up with a smile and throws 50 cents into Lovison's open guitar case – the first customer of the day.

As he sings, more change comes clinking in: $4 from a man in a suit, some quarters from a girl who looks about 10 years old, and $2 from an elderly woman with a cane.

Lovison, a 28-year-old street musician and Masters' student, makes a living playing for cash – an increasingly rare commodity as consumers shift to digital-only payments.

In the second quarter of 2017, almost 40 per cent of payment transactions used tap-and-pay methods, according to data from debit and credit payment processor Moneris Solutions, a figure the company predicts will jump to 50 per cent by the end of the year.

But while a truly cashless society may still be years away, that hasn't stopped those who depend on it from feeling its effects.

It's an issue for charitable organizations like The Salvation Army, which is beginning to rethink its annual Christmas kettle campaign.

In recent years, the organization has experimented with having some volunteers carry debit terminals, according to a spokeswoman.

This year, the Salvation Army is creating a website for the campaign, as well as partnering with RBC to develop a mobile app where people can donate.

"There's no going around it -- we have to adapt to the fact that people don't have much money on them anymore," said Brigitte St-Germain, the organization's public relations director.

Lovison says his income from busking is too random to know whether he's being affected by changing consumer habits.

"I can play for two hours and make $100, then the next week, same day and same time, I can make nothing," he said.

Joseph Krila, who holds out a baseball cap in front of a Burger King in downtown Montreal, says passers-by increasingly tell him they don't have any change.

"They say, 'I don't carry cash, only cards," said Krila, who said he was 59.



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