Can businesses legally refuse to accept cash?

Can businesses say ‘no’ to your cash and insist on payment by card?. It’s a question that’s often asked.

Cash as a method of payment is disappearing as fast as the cheque, much to the horror of money launderers everywhere. Cash is as old as civilisation and cheques date back to the Romans in the first (or last, depending on how you look at it) century before Christ.

According to a Reserve Bank survey in November 2019, cash was still used in 32 per cent of transactions. However, only 19 per cent of the total value of all transactions, cash and otherwise, was in cash.

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The number of cash transactions had fallen by a quarter in three years before the 2019 survey and the value of transactions by more than one-third.

At this rate, we can expect cash to effectively be non-existent by 2045.

However, this will probably happen a lot sooner because of the attrition rate among people who prefer to use cash.

Plus, money launderers find ways to launder electronically. They already have – cryptocurrencies.

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We are witnessing a major change, the digital revolution, which is on par with the industrial revolution that swept the world 150 years ago.

But to get back to the question, can businesses (from utilities to cafés) refuse payment in cash?

The answer is, yes.

Businesses can legally refuse to accept a consumer’s ‘legal tender’ (such as official Australian coins or banknotes) as payment. There is no law against a business refusing to accept cash for goods and services. Businesses are within their rights to set the commercial terms on which payment will take place before the ‘contract’ for supply of goods or services is entered into.

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That’s why you can’t hop on a bus any more and buy a ticket!

But note that it can also work the other way around.

It’s perfectly legal for your local takeaway shop to put up a hand-written sign that says ‘Cash only, please!’, meaning no cards and certainly no cheques.

Many still do.

Paul Versteege is policy manager at the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association.

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  1. I hate where we are going. Government and Card companies will have full control of all our lives.
    Shop on line, no more shops.
    No shops, no cafes.
    No cafes, no people.
    No people, no town centres.
    No town centres, nobody going out.
    No going out, no restaurants or pubs.

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