In US, some businesses (especially restaurants) are refusing cash, accepting payment only by card (presumably to limit transferring disease by cash). Is the same thing occurring in Europe? I'll be travelling to Paris, London, and Dublin and need to know if I'm going to travel 100% on card, or will be better served using local currency (as I would have done pre-COVID).
In France, I don't think anyone is refusing cash (for most day-to-day payments that wouldn't be legal if you have the exact amount), there's just been a strong incentive in many places (but not all) to use contactless (with the payment limit raised to 50 euros).
Apparently card usage rates have increased and cash usage rates gone down, which only accelerated an existing trend, but you can still use cash, and you'll still find the odd place which only accepts cash (mostly smaller merchants on markets) or has a disproportionately high minimum amount for cards (yes, my dear butcher, I'm talking about you).
In the UK many places are restricting or discouraging the use of cash. I still carry enough to get me home and/or buy a few essentials, but I've used cash less than once a month in the last year (down from a few times per week, though much of the difference is decreased opportunities to spend at all)
- Some shops say "cards only".
- Larger supermarkets only deal with cash at limited tills (e.g. the cigarette and lottery kiosk) or only at self-pay machines. They'll generally help people who really need to use cash.
- My railway station says "cash in exceptional circumstances" - one of my few cash transactions in the last year was there, because their card machines were down
- Most shops have removed the minimum card spend
- I only discovered that the Bangladeshi supermarket near work accepted cards when the shopkeeper passed me the card machine recently as he told me the total - I'm sure that used to be a cash business.
This has come up before, but I can't find the question.
In UK, a move towards a cashless society was happening before the Covid-19 outbreak, which has only accelerated it. Many young people here no longer even carry cash. A coffee – tap the card, only the vendors with a poor fixed-fee per transaction deal don't like such small amounts.
Many people, including some street traders, will only accept card payment now, not just because of Covid-19, but because it solves the vulnerability of holding cash.
If you are from US yourself, you might consider getting Android Pay or Apple Pay, as the US plastic card systems are behind Europe. Some people are still carrying cards that need a signature – no contactless or even 'chip & pin'. Such cards might not be issued any longer, but there are some being used that have not reached their expiry date yet.
In Dublin you should have no problem paying with cash. Lots of places will have signs indicating they would prefer you to use contactless payment methods but I have not come across any that don't accept cash at all. This doesn't mean they don't exist but if they do they will have signs to indicate this and you should have no problem finding an alternative place to buy whatever you need.
You may find some registers in shops are 'card only' or 'cash only' but there will usually (always in my experience) be one that takes the other form of payment.
As some commenters have said you should investigate the possibility of using your phone for payments anyway. Most places accept this and it will save you carrying cash around.
In Norway, cash is still generally possible but now rather heavily frowned upon. Debit card works everywhere. Once there was an old lady in front of me in a queue who paid in cash, and the cashier got quite annoyed and basically told her this is a horrible idea now (uncharacteristic for Norwegians to be so harsh).
Until last year I myself generally payed in cash whenever feasible (because I find it important to push shops to continue supporting it, not only for the sake of such old people but also for privacy etc. reasons), and nobody ever minded. But I suspended this habit during the pandemic.
By contrast, my family in Germany still uses cash for most smaller payments and this seems to be commonplace – in fact, as others already said, many places in Germany still accept only cash.
In France, a shop cannot legally refuse cash (up to 1000€, after what you have to pay via electronic means to prevent money laundering).
You can be forced to give the exact amount (or risk not being given change).
There are places that will say that some banknotes are not accepted (200€) - it is illegal. They can refuse to give you the change, though. In other words, if you buy something that costs 202€, you can pay 200€ + 2€ and it has to be accepted.
All this said - everyone is accepting cash but one of the rare positive aspects of COVID is that France moved from the Middle Ages to Renaissance in terms of banking. We are still some 500 years late but still (contactless is now universally accepted, except in places where they do not have the right terminal)
In Belgium, many stores accept either credit/debit cards (often even through NFC contactless payments) or Payconiq, which is a Benelux/Munich specific smartphone app that can be linked to a bank account and uses QR codes to communicate payment details. COVID has even lead to many stores only accepting these forms of payment, even though the law requires them to still accept cash.
However, there is no legal obligation for every store to accept either of these yet, and in a number of smaller locations they still do not accept either of these. For example, in my local area there is a deli 2 blocks from me where I often get lunch that only accepts cash, and there is also a small frietkot (takeaway place specializing in fries/chips and assorted deep-fried meat snacks) that didn't allow cashless payments either. However, this might change soon, and there is talk of changing the law so that every store needs to accept at least some form of cashless payments, AND to allow stores to refuse cash payments.
(I know the OP is not travelling there, just an aside to the already posted answers, that is too long for a comment)
In the Czech Republic, we are contactless pretty much for the last four years. Most places still accept cash, but contactless is the preferred method.
In Prague, I only found one place (a very small newsstand in one of the subway stations) that didn't accept cards. Outside Prague contactless is ubiquitous and only a few remaining places don't accept cards. Cash is still accepted everywhere, though.
This switch happened thanks to a new law, making it mandatory to send receipts to the national electronic receipt/payment database, which meant that everyone pretty much needed to buy a new cash register that automatically sent payment receipt to the ministry database. And when you were buying the new register, they all had contactless options as standard, so there is no reason not to use it.
In Germany, most shops still accept cash. Every Rewe, Aldi, Lidl, Famila, bakery and other grocery store I've been to still accepts cash. Most bakeries (except for the chains that are in train stations) only accepted cash before the pandemic and of the few that I've been to, one has begun to accepts cards, but the others did not.