A man walks into a bar (no joke this time). He asks for a pint of beer. The barman pours it and asks him to pay the £3.58 bill. The customer takes a huge pile of bronze from a plastic bag and tries to settle up paying only in 1p and 2p coins.
The barman says he does not have to accept the coppers, citing the Coinage Act 1971, which allows workers to refuse any payment above 20p in bronze coins, such as 1p and 2p coins, as it does not strictly qualify as ‘legal tender’.
Is the barman correct? Money is money, right?
Wrong. According to the Royal Mint, 1p and 2p coins are only legal tender for transactions up to the value of 20p, while 5p and 10p coins need only be accepted for transactions up to £5.
Legal tender - a narrow term
“Legal tender has a very narrow and technical meaning in the settlement of debts,” the Royal Mint says. “It means that a debtor cannot successfully be sued for non-payment if he pays into court in legal tender.
“It does not mean that any ordinary transaction has to take place in legal tender or only within the amount denominated by the legislation.
“Both parties to a transaction are free to agree to accept any form of payment whether legal tender or otherwise according to their wishes.
“In order to comply with the very strict rules governing an actual legal tender transaction it is necessary, for example, to offer the exact amount due because no change can be demanded.
Coins are legal tender throughout the United Kingdom for the following amounts:
£100 - for any amount
£20 - for any amount
£5 (Crown) - for any amount
£2 - for any amount
£1 - for any amount
50p - for any amount not exceeding £10
25p (Crown) - for any amount not exceeding £10
20p - for any amount not exceeding £10
10p - for any amount not exceeding £5
5p - for any amount not exceeding £5
2p - for any amount not exceeding 20p
1p - for any amount not exceeding 20p