We’ve come to a time when the saying, “cash is king,” might be a bit outdated. People are switching to electronic transactions via credit cards and debit cards, which is why so many UK businesses are changing their payment methods. If you’ve been having trouble paying at your favourite stores, you’re not alone.

UK businesses can refuse to accept cash if they offer alternative payment methods. Martin Lewis explained that companies throughout the United Kingdom could decide whether they want to allow cash or not. Some businesses prefer electronic payments to prevent cash clutter or viral spread.

Throughout this article, you’ll also learn the following info about when and why UK businesses can refuse to accept cash:

  • Various instances in which a company can decline payment methods.
  • Possible workarounds to using cash (or cards).
  • Numerous problems are caused by the sudden decline in cash production and usage.

Are Businesses in the UK Allowed To Deny Payment Methods?

If your cash has been getting declined lately, it’s not an accident or rarity. Countless small, medium and large businesses are refusing cash for a handful of reasons. This process is frustrating and inconvenient, so, why would a store decline your payment method?

Here’s a list of explanations that businesses refuse cash:

  1. They can deny cash if they offer other payment methods. In an Express interview, Martin Lewis details that companies can accept any form of payment they want, even if it’s not legal tender. As long as they offer an alternative, they have the right to decline cash, credit, and so on.
  2. UK businesses might deny cash to prevent the spreading of viruses and bacteria. From the common cold to coronavirus and so on, germs are causing some businesses across the United Kingdom to deny cash. It carries debris more than electronic payment methods, so they’re slowing the bacterial and viral spread.
  3. If they have too much cash in the register, it becomes a liability. When a small business has more than enough cash in the drawer, it’s dangerous. If someone sees the money or robs the store, the business loses far too much of its investment. In this case, it could be a situational refusal.
  4. They don’t always have to disclose their reasons. Unfortunately (and perhaps the most infuriating reason), companies don’t have to tell you why they’re declining cash. They might have their reasons, but no law states they have to give an explanation. It’s best to look for ‘Cash Only’ or ‘Card Only’ signs.
  5. Coins can become a burden. Too many coins can cause clutter. In many countries worldwide, coins are going out of circulation. They’re not being used because they get in the way. So, if a business declines coins, they’ll often decline paper cash because taxes require coins.

As you can see, there are quite a few reasons UK businesses might refuse cash. It’s no doubt a burden, but it doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. In the next section, we’ll cover some exceptions and ways to work around cashless businesses.

Are There Any Exceptions?

If you only have cash on hand, it’s time to find out your options. You might not be able to use cash everywhere, so keep these tips in mind wherever you go. Remember that businesses hold the authority when it comes to payment methods. Having multiple payment methods is often the best course of action.

If you’re stuck with cash, let’s explore your options below.

  • If the company hasn’t disclosed another form of payment, you might be in luck. According to Daily Mail, businesses are required to accept at least one payment method. Whether they want to choose cash, credit, or another form is up to them. If they don’t show an alternative, you could file a complaint.
  • Some businesses only accept cash, so sudden changes could create problems. If you’re used to going to the same markets and using cash, a quick switch to electronic funds might feel like a curveball. While they’re entitled to make the change, you could call corporate for an exception. Many companies value repeat customers.
  • Try to deposit cash and turn it into a card. Many markets have vending machines and CoinStar systems which allow you to use store credit, checks, or cards for cash. Deposit your leftover coins into these machines around town, then use the voucher as a payment method in participating stores. You can also use this process to donate to charities.

There aren’t too many ways to get around cashless business, but these suggestions should make things a bit easier. Sadly, many people are having trouble getting by without using cash. Many jobs and personal banks use cash, so customers are pushing along at a slow pace. If you want to learn about the problems caused by cash refusal, read on.

Do Cashless United Kingdom Businesses Cause Problems?

If you’ve been frustrated with local businesses declining cash, you might want to get used to the change. Many studies show cash is becoming less useful, and in some cases, obsolete. Electronic funds transfer quickly, they’re harder to steal, and companies don’t have to switch cash to checks to pay their employees.

However, these sudden changes are having negative impacts on many customers. Below, you’ll find four undeniable issues associated with cashless UK businesses.

People Can’t Buy Basic Necessities

BBC mentions that customers are having trouble buying toilet paper, paper towels, food, and water because they’re not allowed to use cash. Senior citizens are much more likely to use cash than younger generations, leaving vulnerable groups of the population left without life’s many requirements. This problem stems from the past’s cash-based payment methods.

Cashflow Boosts the Local Economy

If people are allowed to use whichever payment method they prefer, they’re much more likely to shop locally. Rather than contributing to major corporations, many citizens enjoy purchasing goods from small businesses. Unfortunately, cash refusal makes it hard to choose where you want to do your shopping.

Using Debit Cards Could Create Fees

Many stores require a small fee for using debit cards. Some places charge up to 0.05%, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but it ripples and grows with every transaction. In other words, you’ll be forced to pay a bit more or use a credit card. Cashless shops become less appealing because customers feel like the prices have gone up, even if the base costs haven’t.

Electronic Payments Don’t Eliminate Germs

Markets often use plastic covers to protect keypads and pens, but everyone touches the plastic cover, which means it doesn’t save you from germs. It cleans the pens and keypads from dirt and debris, but you can spread bacteria and viruses from touching any surface, including these so-called protected electronic payment methods.

While there are workarounds, benefits, and drawbacks of cashless UK businesses, it’s about time many of us accept the new way things are going. The Guardian predicts that by 2026, less than 21% of transactions will involve notes and coins.


Now that you know why businesses are declining cash, you’re on the right path to always stay prepared. Keep a bit of cash on hand for small transactions, but with the way things are going, you should expect electronic funds to be the way of the future.

Here’s a quick recap of the post:

  • You can use cash vending machines to switch to cards.
  • Some companies refuse cash due to spreading germs or excess cash in the register.
  • Companies are allowed to decline any payment method as long as they offer alternatives.

As always, please remember I am an Accountant, but not your Accountant. In this post (and all of my others) I share information and oftentimes give anecdotes about what has worked well for me. However, I do not know your personal financial situation and so do not offer individual financial advice. If you are unsure of a particular financial subject, please hire a qualified financial advisor to guide you.

This article has been written by Luke Girling, ACA – a qualified Accountant and personal finance enthusiast in the UK. Please visit my About page for more information. To verify my ACA credentials – please search for my name at the ICAEW member finder. To get in touch with questions or ideas for future posts, please comment below or contact me here.