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The O.C.: Why businesses can deny cash

Aloe Suarez, Features Reporter

This past weekend, a friend and I went to a museum with spacious gardens and gorgeous architecture. Yet when I went to pay at the ticket stand, I couldn’t pay because they don’t accept cash.

I won’t tell you how embarrassing that was, but let me tell you how any business can deny paper bills.

Towards the beginning of the pandemic, health sciences noted that coronavirus could spread through contact with surfaces, so businesses began denying cash which drew some attention. 

We’ll start by addressing what cash is— and it is, by definition, “ready money” and “money or its equivalent (such as a check) paid for goods or services at the time of purchase or delivery,” according to the Merriam Webster dictionary. 

But Investopedia gives a better definition by defining cash as “legal tender—currency or coins—that can be used to exchange goods, debt, or services.”

Legal tender is a key to explain why it is denied because legal is not the same as lawful— cash is valid but not required.

Even in the US Code, Section 31 states that “United States coins and currency are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues.”

According to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, there are no federal mandates for businesses to accept legal tender as a form of payment. 

In other words, a company can say that they only allow bartering and not cash. A company can also say they only accept biscuits as payment and not cash. And it is by this that stores can say they don’t accept large or small denominations. 

The bottom line is it’s not against the law for businesses to deny cash. Cash and coins are negotiable in terms of acceptance for payment. And please make sure that there’s enough money in the bank to swipe your card.

If you have any money questions you need a money answer to, send us a message, and we’ll cover it. 


For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].

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