Claim: U.S. law specifies that merchants do not have to accept more than 100 pennies in payment.
Origins: This is one of the pieces of misinformation that makes me wish web sites like this one had been around when I was a kid so I have could pointed my father toward it and told him to shut up already. I can’t recall how many times he solemnly intoned that “Pennies are not legal tender in quantities greater than 100” and therefore merchants were
“legally” allowed to refuse any offer of payment that included more than one hundred one-cent coins (and, presumably, could not “legally” refuse payment offered in any other form of legal tender). As with so many other things he was dead wrong (and I knew it even then), but I had no way of proving him wrong. I can now, though.
Title 31 (Money and Finance), Subtitle IV (Money),
United States coins and currency (including Federal reserve notes and circulating notes of Federal reserve banks and national banks) are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues. Foreign gold or silver coins are not legal tender for debts.
What this statute means, in the words of the United States Treasury, is that “[A]ll United States
In other words,
So, for example, if an automobile dealer signs a contract agreeing to sell you a car for $8,000, but when you begin making monthly payments he rejects them and insists he wants to be paid in gold instead, you can go to court and have your debt discharged on the grounds that valid payment was offered and refused.
Up until the late 19th century, pennies and nickels weren’t legal tender at all. The Coinage Acts of 1873 and 1879 made them legal tender for debts up to
|Designation of legal tender (United States Code, Title 31)|
|What is legal tender? (United States Treasury FAQ)|
Last updated: 16 May 2011
Jones, Rebecca. “Legal, Yes, But Paying IRS Bill in Pennies Is More Pain Than It’s Worth.” Denver Rocky Mountain News. 12 July 1998. Landers, Ann. “Ann Landers.”
29 January 1996 [syndicated column]. Viets, Elaine. “A Penny Saved Can Be a Lot of Trouble.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 24 April 1994.