Nugget of Knowledge: Legal Tender Rules

Some businesses will only accept small bills


Can you use cash everywhere?

Isn’t it “legal tender” for all debts?

We’ve all heard those stories of people trying to pay debts with pennies — a $25 traffic ticket turns into 2,500 pennies, for example.

This may surprise you — some businesses or governmental agencies will only accept checks, money orders or credit cards as payment and others will only take cash in denominations of $20 or smaller.

Is this legal?


All money is valid, but there is no federal law that says a private business, person or organization must accept paper money or coins as payment for goods or services.

Private businesses are free to set up their own policies on whether to accept cash.

A bus company, for example, can say no to paying fares in pennies or dollar bills.

Movie theaters, convenience stores and gas stations can refuse to accept large denominations, usually anything above $20.

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