No Cash! What’s the State of Cash Payments?


A vigilant glance upon entering a store, snack bar, or restaurant pays off. Otherwise, one might be ready to pay only to find out that cash is unexpectedly not accepted. Increasingly, signs on entrance doors indicate limited payment options: “No cash accepted,” “Credit or debit cards only,” “Cash only.” This state of affairs has recently shocked consumer advocates and prompted a demand for the Eurozone.

Hindered Cash Access

Various studies circulate on the topic of cash. The consensus: card payments are increasing, yet many still value the option of cash payment. However, access to cash is becoming more difficult. According to an online survey of 1,000 internet users by the opinion research institute eye square GmbH on behalf of the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (vzbv), this is evident in various ways. On one hand, over a quarter of respondents must travel further to the ATM. On the other hand, for over 20 percent of respondents, withdrawal costs have increased.

Now, another everyday hurdle arises: merchants and restaurateurs are refusing cash more often. 27 percent of respondents reported being in a situation where they could not pay with cash at least once in the last six months. The consumer association sees this as a problem. Their demand is to promote acceptance of cash – throughout the entire Eurozone.

Legally Anchoring Cash Payments!?

The argumentation for the relevance of secured cash access is multifaceted. Privacy for individuals, participation in public life, access to a means of payment – keywords here include cybercrime – or simply the desire to freely choose the payment method are cited by the vzbv in this context. To benefit from the various advantages, consumer advocates see a legal obligation to accept cash as necessary.

The European Commission went in a similar direction in 2023. They proposed to classify the Euro as legal tender, strengthening its role as a means of payment. This, in turn, requires member states to guarantee permanent access. This would again leave the decision 100 percent with the consumer, whether they prefer to pay in cash or use a card.

“No Cash Accepted”: What Does the Law Say?

Apart from individual preferences, a question arises: Is refusing cash payments in retail and gastronomy permissible at all? Under certain circumstances, yes. If both parties agree on a different payment method before the purchase – a corresponding notice or sign is usually sufficient – excluding cash is possible.

Private companies can therefore exclude cash payments by contract. In addition, individual restrictions can be implemented without prior communication: for example, a café can refuse to accept 500 euro bills. If consumers want to pay with too many euro coins, the seller may also refuse. In the latter case, since euro coins can be classified as a “restricted” means of payment, they do not have to be accepted in unlimited quantities.

The Future of Cash Payments

As is often the case, what the future will bring is uncertain. Will we stand at the checkout in the future and can only rely on card payments? Or must retailers and restaurateurs leave us the freedom of choice? The Deutsche Bundesbank has described three scenarios for the future role of cash for consumers and trade as part of the National Cash Forum. A summary can be found in our blog post “How Cash Will Be Used in the Future.”

Whether in retail or gastronomy – if you want to continue accepting cash, you need a secure, transparent, and efficient cash management system. We’d be happy to show you what that could look like!