Say you eat at a restaurant, and after you are finished, the waiter brings you your bill.

Is the restaurant legally obligated to accept pennies as payment regardless of the amount?

(Of course, I am assuming no explicit arrangements regarding this have been made beforehand.)

  • 1
    In the UK, 1p and 2p coins are legal tender for any amount up to 20p. In many places you can get mayonnaise for your chips for that amount :-) – gnasher729 May 9 '16 at 11:06
  • @gnasher729: lol, if I'm being honest with you, mayonnaise on fries sounds a bit... disgusting =P only recently did I find out it was even a thing! – user541686 May 9 '16 at 11:19
  • 1
    @Mehrdad I used to find it disgusting, too. Now, in order of preference, I take my fries (1) with mayonnaise, (2) plain, (3) with ketchup. Ketchup these days is far and away too sweet for my taste. – phoog May 9 '16 at 14:37
  • @Mehrdad which state in the US? – Franck Dernoncourt Oct 21 '16 at 23:52
  • @FranckDernoncourt: I'm actually not sure where it was, I saw it in a photo a while ago... – user541686 Oct 22 '16 at 0:25

It doesn't even have to be pennies. Any cash denomination is open to discretion. The Federal Reserve tells us "There is, however, no Federal statute mandating that a private business, a person, or an organization must accept currency or coins as payment for goods or services. "

  • 1
    But they'd have to make it clear before you eat the food. Once you've eaten the food, the restaurant becomes a creditor, and therefore 31 U.S.C. 5103 comes into play. – phoog May 9 '16 at 14:40
  • Is there any state law? – Franck Dernoncourt Oct 21 '16 at 22:40

The restaurant is not legally required to accept pennies as a method of payment. However, what is the outcome of this situation going to be?

  • They call the police? There is no crime, only a contract dispute over the method of payment. The police will probably take a report, separate the parties and tell you to take it to court.

  • Take it to court? Judgment for the plaintiff in the amount of (bill). Payable in pennies.

  • 1
    Well, if they took it to court, the business could also tack on fees for making them go to court and an arbitrary administrative fee for having to count the pennies. Not sure if they'd get awarded that, but taking it to court is probably not in the person's best interests. They'll likely end up paying a lot more than the bill. – animuson Oct 21 '16 at 17:36

I can not comment due to my low reputation. I am not a lawyer, just want to contribute with my thoughts on this topic.

I agree with Patrick87 and phoog. As far as I'm concerned, and I've read, the default Legal Tender is paper (dollars) and coins in USA (each country has its Legal Tender). So, if a restaurant or business, do not want to allow pennies, or want to set a minimum amount of payment with debit/credit cards, they must have a visible warning/disclaimer or the waiter must acknowledge the customer beforehand. If they allow the customer to eat or get the service, and the customer can prove he/she was not informed, then the restaurant/business will have to accept the pennies. They can refuse to accept it, then you refuse to pay, then they sue you, then there is a very high probability you win the suit, because you had the money to pay and the restaurant refused to accept it, but it's a valid currency and you were not acknowledged before you eat the food. Unless, of course, like always happens, the restaurant printed the note in the menu in small print and they win.

  • In some countries there are laws that limit the amount of coins you can use to pay, to avoid boycotts. In Spain you can use 50 coins, max. (there is no limit for banks). – SJuan76 Jan 12 '17 at 10:06
  • Yes, I'm aware of that, that's why I said: [Quote] Legal Tender is paper (dollars) and coins in USA (each country has its Legal Tender). [/Quote] That applies to states inside a country as well, because there are laws that affect only some states often. – angelhdz12 Jan 17 '17 at 4:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.