The short answer is: Yes.

Businesses and shops in the UK can refuse cash payment.

They can also reject other forms of payment.

The ‘legal tender’ misconception

There is common misconception that cash is ‘legal tender’ that cannot be refused as payment.

However, ‘legal tender‘ has a narrow definition…

For example, if a court rules that you owe a debt, and you offer to pay in legal tender, they cannot refuse it.

However, this rule does not apply in day-to-day transactions. This point is highlighted by the Bank of England, which states that legal tender has ‘no place in everyday life’.

What exactly is legal tender?

In response to a 2022 petition to make cash acceptance mandatory, the UK Government stated:

The government does not plan to mandate cash acceptance. Businesses are able to choose the forms of payment they accept. The government’s proposals for legislation support cash acceptance.

It did recognise that some ‘vulnerable people’ rely on cash. However, it made it clear that it is still the right of the individual businesses to choose what form of payment they accept.

Why do some shops refuse cash payments?

1. To reduce cash management costs

Cash management (not to be confused with cashflow management) refers to all of the tasks and processes related to handling physical currency.

It is an essential part of some businesses’ work. For example, cash acceptance is a big part of everyday retail operations.

However, it comes with associated costs. For example, banks charge fees for accepting cash and coins. And there are staff training, security, transportation, and insurance costs related to handling cash.

2. To increase efficiency

Cash management also takes up time and resources. So, by not accepting cash, businesses can save time and resources.

Not accepting cash can also reduce queue time. After all, handling contactless payments can be quicker for employees and customers than handling cash.

3. To reduce the risk of theft and robbery

By eliminating cash payments, businesses also remove the need to securely store and transport cash.

This in turn reduced the risk of theft (internal or external), some types of fraud (counterfeit notes), and robberies.

4. Because they believe cash is obsolete

Some argue that cash is no longer needed. Others even argue that a move to a cashless society is needed.

The advancement in technology has caused movement towards non-cash payments. Many bank branches have closed down, and the number of ATMs in the UK fell by 14,665 (22 per cent) between July 2018 and September 2022.

Despite this, the reality for now is that cash is still popular. According to UK Finance, cash is still the second most popular payment method.

The benefits of accepting cash payments

Accepting cash payments can bring a number of benefits.

Cash is particularly useful for small businesses dealing with low value but frequent transactions, where it saves money on processing fees.

It can also reduce overheads related to securely storing sensitive electronic payment data.

It improves accessibility of businesses’ products and services. This helps groups that use cash as their primary payment method (such as the elderly), and gives others more choice of payments methods.

Cash payments promote debt free transactions. This can help some consumers better control and manage their spending. It can also show that your business is factoring in a payment method for vulnerable groups.

Finally, cash is a reliable back up in the event of technology errors or breakdowns.


In the UK, businesses possess the right to refuse cash payments. Despite this reality, a common misconception that cash is universally considered ‘legal tender’, and therefore cannot be refused, persists.

While legal definitions vary across regions, the UK government, in response to a 2022 petition, affirmed the autonomy of businesses to choose what specific payment methods they accept.

Various shops opt for cashless transactions due to cost reductions in cash management. In some cases, this can increase efficiency and diminish risks of theft.

However, embracing cash payments also offers significant advantages. This is especially the case for small businesses dealing with frequent, low-value transactions. And it serves as a reliable back up in case of technological glitches.

Despite the push towards cashless transactions, cash remains a popular and essential payment method in the UK. Being able to accept cash enables businesses to gain a wider range of customers.

From a customers point of view, it enhances accessibility and convenience, and promotes debt-free spending.

Can Shops Refuse Cash in the UK?