Cash, Coronavirus & You!

Is it legal for a store to refuse cash in Canada?

In recent days, I have seen countless people complain on social media about how current measures and precautions in regards to COVID-19 are infringing upon their individual rights. The great mask debate is a perfect example. Now, it seems, people are getting aggravated with store policies stating “debit and credit only.”

I get it. I really do. It sucks to be inconvenienced.


At the best of times, money is filthy. Even before COVID-19 was a thing, money had a habit of changing hands without any way to track where it has been or what it has been exposed to. This hasn’t changed. Now you have the added fun of it being potentially exposed to a virus that may live on surfaces for up to three days and transmits through any population it encounters with extreme ease. No thanks! Those policies you are fond of complaining about? Those are in place to protect the workers and YOU. Get over it.

“But it’s legal tender! They have to take it! It’s the law!”

Inaccurate 2

Nope. The only true statement here is about it being legal tender. That doesn’t mean they have to accept it as payment. Before COVID hit, some businesses were already saying no to $50 and $100 notes due to increased counterfeiting, This is not a new concept; it’s been happening for some time. While the Bank of Canada encourages businesses to continue accepting cash, they also acknowledge the efforts to limit the transmission of COVID-19 and confirm that there is no law requiring businesses of any kind to accept physical cash if they so choose. Despite popular opinion, there is nothing in the Bank of Canada Act or the Currency Act stating otherwise. A similar debate also exists in the United States and while there are a few states that have passed laws locally (I’m looking at you New Jersey and Massachusetts), the Federal Reserve also confirms there is “no Federal statute mandating that a private business, a person, or an organization must accept currency or coins as payment for goods or services.” They go even further by saying that “private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether to accept cash unless there is a state law which says otherwise.” So, please check with your province or state; the feds aren’t going to help you here.

No Cash 2And for those conspiracy theorists that believe this is some form of a scheme to control the masses, there is some unfortunate news for you as well. If you truly believe that the government is behind businesses saying no to cash, I don’t know how to help you. Cash is not the safety net you believe it to be. While it may be true that holding something physical certainly gives you the illusion of ownership, the sad reality is you are a temporary caretaker at best. Those bills and coins you carry around with you are only worth something as long as the government, the banks, and people believe it has worth. It is a promise, and nothing more. If you look past the ink, it’s just a piece of paper, a sheet of plastic, or a disc of metal. The Bank of Canada, the mint, and the Federal Government still control and govern the use of cash in the country. That same Bank of Canada has its name on each and every piece of money in your pocket. Who do you think actually owns it?

If you’ve decided you don’t want to shop in a place that doesn’t accept cash, that’s your call. Nobody is stopping you from leaving. Nobody is forcing you to shop there in the first place. But take a moment to think before you get angry with the businesses who are doing their best to protect themselves and their workers. They have rights too. It’s not all about you.

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