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Currency Limitation

Today’s topic is a merchant’s obligation to accept cash payments.

By
Michael W. Flynn
November 3, 2007

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First, a disclaimer: Although I am an attorney, the legal information in this podcast is not intended to be a substitute for seeking personalized legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Further, I do not intend to create an attorney-client relationship with any listener.  

 

Today’s topic is a merchant’s obligation to accept cash payments. Kevin from Florida wrote:

Apple recently announce that they would NO longer accept cash payments for an iPhone, and only accept credit cards. Is this legal to refuse legal tender in the United States?

Great question Kevin! Apple claims that they are requiring credit cards so they can track purchases to prevent customers from buying the iPhone, unlocking its protection software, and then reselling it. Apple’s recent move has sparked a surprising amount of controversy, and has alienated some customers. The short answer is that a merchant can lawfully require payment in any reasonable form, and Apple’s recent move to require credit cards does not seem to violate any federal law. 

 

Open your wallet or purse and take out a bill. You will notice that every bill contains on the front the phrase “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.” The Legal Tender Statute, 31 U.S.C 5103, provides “United States coins and currency (including Federal reserve notes and circulating notes of Federal reserve banks and national banks) are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues. Foreign gold or silver coins are not legal tender for debts.”

 

Several consumers reacting to Apple’s recent refusal of cash for iPhones have cited to this statute, and the words printed on your money, to argue that Apple’s actions are illegal. I could not find a case where a merchant accepted only credit cards, but several cases upheld other merchants’ no-cash policies. 

 

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