NEW YORK — Visa is looking to push more small businesses into updating their digital payment technology, offering up to $10,000 each to 50 U.S.-based small business owners that are committed to going cashless.

The program will focus on restaurants and food establishments, Visa said Wednesday, with the expectation that Visa will expand the program in the coming months and years to other industries and possibly other countries as well.

Despite the proliferation of credit and debt cards, and the advent of technologies like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, cash remains a significant method of payment in many industries across the U.S. and around the world. Going completely cashless often requires upgrades to current point-of-sale systems, which remains an impediment for many small businesses, which is largely where cash remains king.

"We are declaring war on cash," said Andy Gerlt, a spokesman for Visa.

To participate in Visa Inc.'s Cashless Challenge, small business restaurants, cafés or food truck owners will need to describe what cashless means for them, their employees and customers.

Visa isn't doing this for charity. The world's largest processor of credit and debit cards takes a fee from every payment that runs on its network. The more payments done through them, the more revenue Visa gets.

Those fees, which can run into the thousands of dollars each year depending on how much the business sells, are the reason many small businesses prefer cash.

"At the end of the month, when you look at a credit card statement and see how much you paid, it's a real number that hits you right in the face," says Matthew Geller, president of the National Food Truck Association, a trade group. Many food trucks accept credit cards to be competitive, but would rather have cash, he says.

Visa argues that the benefits of going cashless can outweigh the costs for handling cash, which requires more intensive bookkeeping, physical transportation of cash, etc. Visa also argues that consumers prefer to use their cards as well.

Businesses that receive the award can use the $10,000 toward upgrading their point-of-sale systems so they are completely cashless. If there is spare money left over, the business owner can use the money toward marketing or other efforts to promote their small businesses, Gerlt said.

____

AP Small Business Reporter Joyce Rosenberg contributed to this report from New York.

____

Ken Sweet covers bank and consumer financial issues for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @kensweet.