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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).

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Willeke Apr 2 at 19:13

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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).

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    The same is also true for Germany. Card usage in average grocery stores is high, not only for the shopping but also for the withdrawal of cash when buying goods over a specific sum (mostly €10). – Mark Johnson Apr 1 at 10:06
  • And again the same in the Netherlands. Cash is still accepted in many places but cards are the norm and phone payments and such getting more normal. – Willeke Apr 1 at 15:28
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    "In France, I don't think anyone is refusing cash" taking just that sentence fragment, that is true in the same way that "the sun is hot" is true :) I'd say France and Italy are tied (perhaps competing is better way to put it :) ) for greatest love of black economy. – Fattie Apr 2 at 16:41
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    @Fattie Interestingly enough, if in France many merchants love cash because it allows some, ahem, "flexibility" in tax reporting, for a long time Germany or Switzerland were much, much more cash-oriented than France (where there was a very early push for chip & pin, compared to most of the world). It used to be quite common to see people with hundreds of DM/CHF/EUR in their wallet. Not sure where that stands now. – jcaron Apr 2 at 22:17
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    snb.ch/en/mmr/reference/pre_20180531/source/pre_20180531.en.pdf "Cash is the most common method of payment for households in Switzerland. Of the payments recorded, 70% were processed with cash." If you're not familiar with the "lines of folks at the post office paying bills" phenomenon, as it says "35% of non-recurring payments that involve amounts of more than CHF 1,000 are settled with cash." finews.com/news/english-news/… – Fattie Apr 3 at 13:03
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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.
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    After the first wave of the pandemic, The Guardian covered this move, and quotes data that back up what Chris H has to say. – MadHatter Apr 2 at 8:19
  • Thanks @MadHatter. I read that article at the time but had forgotten about it. – Chris H Apr 2 at 12:10
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    “Most shops have removed the minimum card spend” — I thought minimal card spend rules weren't legal anyway (I know many shops have them, but they can't actually enforce them). As an anecdotal point, I basically haven't taken cash with me in over a year. And even before lockdown I didn't always have any on me: many places in the UK have been evolving away from cash for years. – Konrad Rudolph Apr 2 at 21:58
  • @Konrad I don't know whether they're legal or not, but I'd happily follow it as a request from a small business. They were becoming less common with the lower cost to the merchant of contactless. I always have cash to hand, even now, which has proved its worth (like when I couldn't have got to work because the station's card system was down, a fault also affecting their already rubbish ticketing app). More often though, cash just gives me more options. A major reason I haven't used it so much is fewer transactions, like not a single takeaway coffee in 6 months. – Chris H Apr 3 at 8:24
  • @ChrisH I usually don’t carry any cash (or even a wallet), and the only reason I sometimes do is specifically to be able to pay smaller merchants. That said, where I live in London many (most?) takeaway coffees etc only accept contactless nowadays. – Konrad Rudolph Apr 3 at 9:10
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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.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Willeke Apr 2 at 19:12
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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.

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In Berlin, you will find that businesses which can accept contactless payments (mostly medium-size to large businesses) are encouraging you to use them, but businesses which previously didn't accept card payments (e.g. small döner stands) still don't accept them now.

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  • It certainly has become much, much less odd to pay a bakery, tobacconist, newsagent or taxi with plastic in Germany than two years ago... – rackandboneman Apr 4 at 0:23
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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.

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    Until last year I myself generally payed in cash whenever feasible [...]but also for privacy etc. reasons -- thank you, on behalf of those of us who try to salvage what we can of our dwindling privacy :) – user117254 Apr 2 at 22:51
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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)

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  • In Germany, unless a noticeable sign exists that certain notes (or a notice of no cash at all), cash must be accepted. Exceptions exist (more than 50 coins, large notes for a small sum). If the seller doesn't have insufficient change, then the transaction is cancelled. – Mark Johnson Apr 1 at 21:51
  • @MarkJohnson: ah yes, we have the number of coins exception as well. Otherwise, cash is the only mean of payment that is compulsory to be accepted (including all banknotes in circulation). There are rare specific cases where it can not be the case (such as some night shops that can limit the total sum they store in cash) – WoJ Apr 2 at 6:58
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    Late compared to what? French people love to indulge in this kind of complaints but the reality is that it's one of the countries in the world with the lowest use of cash, ubiquitous chip and PIN cards, very cheap online banking options, etc. etc. You can cherry pick a few things that have been rolled out faster in a handful of small countries but the notion that it would be stuck in the Renaissance is useless hyperbole. I feel this answer is just a rant that adds nothing to @jcaron comprehensive description of payments in France. – Relaxed Apr 2 at 12:55
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    US indeed, Germany, Netherlands, etc. in fact 95% of the world, which is why your claim is completely stupid on its face. I could discuss these (rather minor) issues point-by-point and sure I would also prefer a slightly different setup for MFA but that's hardly being stuck in the Middle Age. You just mentioned several changes yourself in the very comments complaining that nothing is ever changing! – Relaxed Apr 2 at 15:27
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    People preferring a bank with a physical presence or the existence of chèques is also completely irrelevant, you don't have to use these things, alternatives are readily available and cheaper than in many other places. Meanwhile, the reality is that cash is still much more common in the UK so if that was the standard by which you judge things, you would have to consider the UK more backwards even if you like Curve. – Relaxed Apr 2 at 15:29
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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.

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(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.

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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.

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