The banknote: a universal means of payment

Cash is legal tender in France. It is a criminal offence to refuse it in a transaction, although there are exceptions. The fact that cash is legal tender guarantees that everyone has the freedom to choose how they wish to pay. Euro banknotes and coins must therefore be available to the public at all times and universally accepted, as they are often the only means of payment possible for the most financially vulnerable. The Banque de France provides a banknote and coin supply and collection service for private individuals free of charge.

Confidence: a prerequisite for cash acceptability

Cash is a very secure means of payment because the Eurosystem ensures that the risk of counterfeiting is extremely limited, particularly thanks to the quality of its banknotes. The very small number of counterfeit banknotes allows the Eurosystem to embed confidence in cash, as the risk of a banknote being deemed fake is very low. Individuals and professionals alike can therefore use cash freely in the confidence that it is authentic, will be accepted anywhere and is guaranteed by the central bank

The Banque de France keeps a close watch on acceptance of cash as legal tender

When cases of cash payments being refused are reported, the Banque de France acts in conjunction with the French Ministry of Finance, and more specifically its Directorate General for Competition Policy, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF).  It should be possible to pay in cash anywhere in France. Should a cash desk or counter refuse to accept payment in cash, another cash desk or counter at the same location will do so.

When a refusal is reported, the Banque de France first sends a warning letter to the establishment or retailer that was in breach of its obligations. If no progress is made, the DGCCRF may step in and issue an official complaint and hand out a fixed fine of €150. Numerous cases were reported during the Covid-19 pandemic when cash refusal signs were displayed. Upon receiving warning letters from the Banque de France, the signs were removed. Very few fines are currently handed out as the intervention of the Banque de France usually suffices.

The Eurosystem makes sure banknotes are safe

The Eurosystem makes sure that euro banknotes are safe to use by researching the potential impact of their production and circulation on public health. More specifically, analyses carried out since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic by leading European laboratories have confirmed that the use of cash presents no greater risk of contamination than any other everyday object, provided of course that the barrier measures recommended by the World Health Organization are applied (particularly regular hand washing and avoiding touching the face).

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Cases in which cash payment may be refused, capped or prohibited

Find out more

Cases in which cash payment may be refused, capped or prohibited

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Updated on 9 November 2023