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Why Are Non-Cash Rewards Better than Cash?

Imagine going down on one knee to ask the love of your life to marry you.  Now imagine, you pull out the ring box and open it up to display a wad a cash and you say, “You can pick out whatever ring you want for this amount of cash!”  You might not get the response you’re looking for.

Remember back when Jerry Seinfeld gave Elaine $182 cash for her birthday?  Her response was exactly what I’m talking about… She was visibly nonplussed, and when Kramer gave her the bench it became even more painfully obvious why cash is not always king.


More often than not, non-cash rewards, gifts, and payments are more powerful than cash.

Let’s face it.  Cash rewards are awesome, but they aren’t personal.  Cash rewards don’t take any thought. Cash rewards are easy. Cash is simply the means we use to accomplish an end goal, to experience an opportunity, or provide for ourselves and families.

Non-cash rewards are better than cash if they help people accomplish the end goal they already established for themselves.

That’s a big bolded IF. If non-cash rewards are given or received without some personal thought, they probably won’t be appreciated.  When was the last time you received a birthday present that you really didn’t need?

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Ralphie didn’t appreciate his non-cash reward!

Imagine being able to provide someone with the actual end goal that they want.  For example, if you provide them with opportunities or trips that the person would love.  The person could, for argument’s sake, exchange the trip for cash, but the fact that the trip was presented to a person who probably wanted that vacation anyway, makes that wad of cash exponentially more valuable simply because you anticipated their wants.

Cash has a definite value, whereas non cash can have a much higher perceived value for some people. Time, thought and attentiveness go into selecting a non-cash reward. The less you know someone, the more you might actually prefer getting cash from them (because they don’t know what you want) and vise versa—the more you know someone, the more you might actually prefer getting non-cash rewards. This holds true in for company based incentives and reward programs too.  A newer employee might prefer a wad of cash, but an employee who’s been with you longer will value the sentiment behind non-cash rewards unique to their personality and tastes.

What’s your take on this?


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