Of the many weird questions people ask about money, this is one you probably hear the most: How much can you legally pay in change. And, if all coins are legal tender, why is there a limit in the first place?
You’ve probably heard about the story of when Samsung paid Apple its $1bn fine by sending more than 30 trucks to Apple’s headquarters loaded with nickels. That wasn’t true. But this one is:
Legal? Nope. Not in the UK at least. But had it been £1 coins…
Unlike paper money, there is a limit to how much you can pay with certain coins.
The term legal tender only comes up in normal conversation when people discuss Scottish money. Legal tender has a very narrow and technical meaning and refers to the settlement of debt.
If a debtor pays legal tender into court, they cannot be sued for non-payment. So, legal tender is just a payment that the court accepts. It doesn’t mean that every transaction needs to use legal tender or only use legal tender within the amount denominated by law.
You can use anything to pay for anything!
As long as both parties agree to accept the payment, everything is fine.
But if you want to buy something in a shop, or pay a bill, you have to agree to pay legal tender. Coins are legal tender throughout the UK for the following amount:
- 1p – for any amount up to 20p
- 2p – for any amount up to 20p
- 5p – for any amount up to £5
- 10p – for any amount up to £5
- 20p – for any amount up to £10
- 25p (Crown) – for any amount up to £10
- 50p – for any amount up to £10
Larger denominations can be used to buy or pay for value of any amount:
- £1 – for any amount
- £2 – for any amount
- £5 (Crown) – for any amount
- £20 – for any amount
- £50 – for any amount
- £100 – for any amount
…yes, there is a £100 coin, but not a £10 coin.
The Coinage Act
The above values are locked into law by the British Coinage Act (1971). It is this act that says that you can only buy things up to a value of 20p with 1p coins, but buy a £500,000 Lamborghini with as many £1 coins…
The Coinage Act also says that £5 coins are legal tender. While banks are under no obligation to accept £5 coins, they are technically legal tender. These coins are designed as limited edition collectables or gifts and aren’t in general circulation. As such, shops and banks are unlikely to accept them.
If you were the bank clerk in charge of counting almost $3,000 in pennies, it would take a while. But you can make the task 15 times faster with the help of our coin counters. With a hopper capacity of over 1,000 coins, our CS40 coin counter can count several wheelbarrows of coins in just three cycles! In 90 seconds, you can tell whether the bill is paid or whether one of the pennies slipped off the counter.