Can businesses refuse to take cash? The answer will surprise you

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Can businesses refuse to take cash? The answer will surprise you

One is for sure though: there is such a thing as paying with too many coins

Consumer journalist


Can a company refuse payment in cash? It doesn’t seem right, and several consumers have written to me to query the legality of such a policy.
Kulula.com, for example, now only accepts card payments for their onboard “refreshments”.
Maura Debenedetti of Pretoria got the “sorry, no cash” line at a gift shop in her local mall recently.
“The shop attendant told me that they don’t accept cash any more, only cards.
“It felt kind of surreal because I thought that cash was still legal tender in SA.
“I know retailers can refuse to accept too many coins, but in my case, I didn’t even have the time to take the notes out of my purse.”
Apparently, it is not illegal to refuse cash payment.
Here’s what the SA Reserve Bank told me: “The rand is the legal currency of South Africa, and as such, represents the only approved payment method for cash.
“However, the payment ecosystem is far broader and consists of a number of different payment mechanisms.
“Due to the security risks associated, some retailers have opted not to accept physical cash any more and prefer other payment mechanisms such as debit and credit cards.”
I’m pretty sure in kulula.com’s case, it’s rather about sparing the cabin attendants the work of finding change for those passengers who tender a R100 note for a cup of coffee.
Companies who accept card payments may not add a percentage to the cost of an item or service to cover their bank fees. That would be illegal.
And while I’m at it, as Debenedetti suggested, the Reserve Bank does indeed limit the number of coins consumers can tender for each transaction:
• 1c, 2c, 5c: maximum of 50c worth;
• 10c, 20c, 50c: maximum of R5 worth; and
• R1, R2, R5: maximum of R50 worth.
The limits are imposed for practical reasons, of course – it’s not fair to hold up a queue while a cashier sorts through and counts your huge pile of coins.

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