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Salvation Army Readies Cashless 'Red Bucket' Donations In Time For Christmas

The Salvation Army in America wants to capitalise on digital payments as waning foot traffic in stores diminishes holiday fundraising, which has relied on shoppers dropping spare change into the charity's red kettles.

Those who wish to make a donation will now be able to use digital payment systems including Apple Pay and Google Pay when Salvation Army bell-ringers hit the streets starting the day after Thanksgiving in the United States.

'Red Kettle' signs -- the buckets are known as kettles in America -- will display smart chips and QR codes that allow shoppers to 'bump' or scan their phones to make donations. The Salvation Army has dubbed the collection process 'Kettle Pay'.

All 25,000 donation spots in the U.S. will be outfitted with the technology, a spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch. The organisation will also continue to accept cash.

In comparison, The Salvation Army in Australia has been using the "tap and go" method for "a number of years", Major Bruce Harmer told 10 daily.

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"People seem to be quite happy with it," Harmer said, citing the charitable organisation's Red Shield Appeal and Christmas as high seasons.

"We are becoming increasingly cashless, and many people in the past would come by our kettles and say, 'I have no way to give because I don't have cash on me,'" the Salvation Army's U.S. national spokesman Dale Bannon, said.

"When you bump or scan your phone, you can make a customisable online donation. We think this will be a good service for people who want a variety of payment options," he said.

Some American retailers have stopped accepting cash altogether, touting the speed and convenience of mobile payments. Meanwhile, some lawmakers contend that rejecting cash discriminates against lower-income people, and have proposed outright bans on cashless retailers.

For its part, The Salvation Army just wants to keep up with the times. Funds received digitally will be distributed to local units based on donors' billing post codes, the organisation announced Friday local time.

For its part, The Salvation Army just wants to keep up with the times. Image: Getty

Its goal is to make it as as easy as possible for everyone to contribute, as cash donations have plateaued in recent years. The philanthropic group raised about $208 million last year, and hopes to collect a total of $220 million this holiday season.

"We believe offering an easy pay option will help us achieve our goal so we can serve 23 million people," Bannon said.

If around 5 percent of all donations came in via Kettle Pay, that would be "a win" for the organisation, he added.

The charitable campaign is one of the largest in the world, with donations going toward providing toys for kids, clothing for the homeless, food for the hungry and more.

Bannon also cited the shorter window between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year as incentive for the organisation to roll out a mobile pay option.

"So many people rely on the Salvation Army to help give kids a bright Christmas morning, and it's important to emphasise Kettle Pay because we are making up for a deficit in terms of the calendar," he said.