Cash not accepted

I was at a cafe today with some friends, right in the middle of Brisbane CBD, and when we went to pay the bill we were told that they don’t accept cash, only plastic. We hadn’t been told beforehand, and as far as I know there were no signs anywhere warning us of this. Is this legal?
In the end, when the waitress saw that we weren’t happy, she very kindly accepted our cash, put it in her own wallet then put the charge on her own card. She was able to do this only because we were able to give her the correct amount, as she didn’t have any loose change herself.
I always thought that a business couldn’t refuse to accept cash if it was offered. Many businesses won’t accept plastic, and that’s fair enough as long as they make customers aware of this beforehand, but this is something else again.

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I find that they do that and then say oh it has to be over $10 ?

I thought the following link might be of interest to other forum users . Although I do remember that at the time the butcher involved stated "health " risks from handling money were the reasons for the plastic only policy .

Thats eftpos not cash.

From Reserve Bank site:


Every sale, transaction or dealing relating to money, or involving the payment of, or a liability to pay, money in Australia is to be done in Australian currency unless it is done, or the parties to the sale, transaction or dealing agree that it will be done, in the currency of another country.

However although transactions are to be in Australian currency unless otherwise agreed or specified, and Australian currency has legal tender status, Australian banknotes and coins do not necessarily have to be used in transactions and refusal to accept payment in legal tender banknotes and coins is not unlawful.


A payment of coins is a legal tender throughout Australia if it is made in Australian coins, but this is subject to some restrictions about how much can be paid in coin. According to the Currency Act 1965 (section 16) coins are legal tender for payment of amounts which are limited as follows:

not exceeding 20c if 1c and/or 2c coins are offered (these coins have been withdrawn from circulation, but are still legal tender);
not exceeding $5 if any combination of 5c, 10c, 20c and 50c coins are offered; and
not exceeding 10 times the face value of the coin if $1 or $2 coins are offered.
For example, if someone wants to pay a merchant with five cent coins, they can only pay up to $5 worth of five cent coins and any more than that will not be considered legal tender.

The Reserve Bank of Australia does not have legal responsibility for Australian coins. That responsibility belongs to the Royal Australian Mint.


It appears that a provider of goods or services is at liberty to set the commercial terms upon which payment will take place before the ‘contract’ for supply of the goods or services is entered into. For example, some vending machines, parking meters and road toll collection points indicate by signs that they will not accept low denomination coins. Some road toll collection points indicate that they will not accept any cash at all. If a provider of goods or services specifies other means of payment prior to the contract, then there is usually no obligation for legal tender to be accepted as payment.
However, refusal to accept legal tender in payment of an existing debt, where no other means of payment/settlement has been specified in advance, conceivably could have consequences in legal proceedings; for example, the creditor may be unable to enforce payment in any other form.


Probably not as u had not been informed prior to the ‘contracted services’ being provided, as per the answer i posted below from RBA

More info…

Isn’t that more the other way around, when a business won’t accept plastic? In this instance they’re refusing to accept cash.

Many thanks, Khary and vax2000. I’ve certainly learnt something here, as I was so sure a business would have to accept cash if offered. Maybe there was a sign somewhere in the restaurant advising customers of this, but I certainly didn’t notice it. I guess it’s leading to the eventual time when cash is totally replaced by plastic and e-transactions.

There is a movement amongst governments and banks to do away completely with cash and have plastic as the only form of legal tender. The advantages are no hidden transactions therefor better tax receipts companies knowing our purchasing habits and profits to the banks for providing plastic. I think this is an invasion of privacy and should be resisted by all legal means. I use cash as much as possible


My understanding has always been that cash is legal tender in that it can be tendered in payment of any debt. I am amazed to see a line from RBA that contradicts that. I cant pay my train fare here in Melbourne with cash, I have to charge up a myki card BUT I know that up front. The coffee shop would need a sign saying we don’t take cash to be legal. Otherwise they might be in breach of the currency act revised about 1965 for decimal currency

There is a new dining area in Sydney that is “cashless” - Spice Alley in Chippendale.

You can pay by card at any of the vendors - but not by cash. If you do not have a card, you can go to a separate counter and get a charge card and load it up with your cash (useful for tourists who may not want to charge a foreign card because of fees).

It’s an interesting concept and personally I wish I could pay by card everywhere, for any amount (like in the USA where you can purchase pretty much anything on card at any cost) as it reduces the risk and hassle of withdrawing and carrying cash.

I think OP is right in saying this kind of policy should be very clear - just like any business that says they will only accept card under certain circumstances.

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I’d like a legal opinion, if I go to cashless Chippendale and I say after a soy vanilla latte that I only have cash what can they do ? If they told me to charge up some card I would tell them to xxxxxxxxxxx.

I suppose if they have a sign that says they are cashless I get my soy vanilla latte elsewhere. To me it sounds like effing hell. Doing it all on a bit of plastic.

Sounds dumb to me on part of the business - all receipts recorded electronically for the taxman to peruse. No way of bypassing the cash register and straight into the hip pocket ! Dumb !!! :slight_smile: :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

I prefer to use cash for smaller purchases such as groceries, petrol, cafes. I don’t want to be profiled or have my purchasing history and movements (location at different times of the day) sold on to enrich some corporate database.

I’m a boringly honest (and honestly boring) person. I’m not hiding anything. It’s just none of their business.

If there’s an easy way to pay anonymously by card I could live with being forced to go cashless. If the banks refuse to provide it and the government refuses to make them, well, that would be interesting.

I prefer to use cash for everyday purchases also, and that’s for budgeting purposes. Each week we draw out a set amount to cover groceries, petrol, occasional cups of coffee and so on. Based on how much cash we have left, we can see how we’re travelling relative to our budgeted amount. It’s far harder to do that when all or some of the purchases are done with plastic.
I’m not philosophically opposed to credit cards and am happy to use them for large purchases or unanticipated expenses. I certainly don’t want to be told that I MUST use a card.

I agree, I too use only cash and do not have a credit card. I only pay cash and if it is not accepted as tender I do not buy! In this case it would have been free coffee.

Great response!
I am out of date & had thought Aust., acceptable currency (no 1 & 2 cent coins) were deemed legal tender on any occasion subject to the amount of various coins and notes.

Your point that contracting over payment method in a transaction is news to me but welcome.

However, maybe you should more strongly emphasize that ‘payment method has to be a forewarned part of the contract’, otherwise it defaults to cash plus. (ie: they don’t say beforehand then, you can choose to pay cash). (i.e. [2] you cannot stipulate terms of a contract after it has been entered into.)

Yes, spot on! The only logical solution is to put the onus on the vendor to ensure that the purchaser is aware of the “no cash” condition of sale. I do recall that a mischievous group tried to pay the Sydney Harbour bridge toll in one and two cent pieces in objection to a price rise some years ago. I think that produced some legislation change at the time.

Some of these are doing this to screen the type of customer they wish to cater to. It is snobbery, and using plastic only give the vibe of sofistication and class.