Using more than 10 2p coins not legal tender?

I was researching international trade on Wikipedia for a essay assignment when I went slightly off topic and landed on the article for Pounds Sterling. If you want to find out all about the history of sterling that’s where to look.

Anyway, this section on legal tender really surprised me. “When settling a restaurant bill after consuming the meal, or other debt the laws of legal tender do apply”

The article then goes on to give a maximum usable legal tender for each of the coins:

Coin Maximum usable as legal tender
£5 (post-1990 crown) unlimited
£2 unlimited
£1 unlimited
50p £10
25p (pre-1990 crown) £10
20p £10
10p £5
5p £5
2p 20p
1p 20p

Now I’m not a lawyer but as I understand it, that means using eleven 2p coins at once (a total of 22p) is not legal tender (For US visitors the exchange rate is 1 british pence = 2 american cents).

Of course, we tend not to even bother using 1ps and 2ps these days: it is barely even worth collecting the obligatory pennys change from every transaction. But it is interesting that coins have a maximum legal tender.

It confuses me why the US keeps using dollar bills: the smallest value note used in the UK is worth £5 (10 US dollars). And even the £5 note isn’t dispensed by cash machines any more and is rarely used. Perhaps it’s time we switched to using a £5 coin and scraped the 1p and the 2p. Or the Monster Raving Loony Party suggested the 99p coin as a way to get around the problem of penny changes.

17 thoughts on “Using more than 10 2p coins not legal tender?

  1. I don’t mean to split hairs, but the smallest value note in the United Kingdom is actually the £1 note, which although is not legal tender in the rest of the UK, is still legal tender in Scotland. As for the £5 note, you’re correct in saying that bank machines no longer tender these notes but they are still widely used, I work in a retail department at my work and we still recieve tons of them. In an hour we could easily collect over £100 worth of fivers in an hour.

    • £5 notes are still dispensed from cash machines- I withdrew £40 from my local Barclays branch today and recieved two £5 notes.

  2. I dont mean to split hairs further, but bank notes issued by Scottish banks are not even legal tender in Scotland. And neither are notes issued by the Bank of England. Only the £1 Bank of England note was legal tender in Scotland, but since it no longer exists, only coins now have the status of legal tender in Scotland.

  3. I don’t mean to split hairs myself, but if you scrap the 1p and 2p coins and you are owned 4p in change at the till you would be mightly peeved if I was unable to give it to you. The coins we have are so any amount of money can be given in change.

    • In which case prices would be changed – in Canada the lowest coin is 5 cents, so all prices not an exact numer of dollars would end in a multiple of 5 cents.

  4. I just went into a corner shop with £2 worth of 2pences and at first he refused them i was shocked when i heard what he said”anything above 50pence in 2p coins,is not legal tender”what a load of rubbish.What if i went back into the shop and had a load of change and he had none only notes?i think he would bite my hand off.

  5. thats just weird i mean i have bought many things using just 2p like when i bought my wii I used 5 pounds of 1p and 2p same with my xbox 360 they’re always really happy to take the change at game because they rarely get much. so you know. 😛

  6. What you must keep in mind is legal tender is for payment into court, it has limited uses, in any transaction other then the repayment of debt in court the laws of legal tender do not apply (except apparently in restaurants).

    That means you can go and pay all in 1p if you want to, the laws of legal tender do not apply.

    • I am fairly sure you are not correct. Legal Tender is associated with the settlement of any debt. Therefore when paying for anything the vendor could, if he/she so wishe refuse payment in coins of greater quantity than stated. Of course most retailers are happy for the change, but they are not obliged to take it.

  7. Nah. You are wrong here. Legal tender is specifically settlement of the debt i.e. paying for the goods and/or services ALREADY provided.

    If you were billed £12 for 10 litres at a petrol station, they may rightly refuse to take a payment even in 50 pence coins. You can pay it by e.g. 50 20p coins and two quid coins though.

  8. *cough* This pretty much explains it, and a lot better than this article (and it's an official source):

    The gist of it? Yes, "legal tender" rules do really only apply strictly in courts, but that individual retailers are free to accept / refuse payment forms as they see fit. So, for instance, if you were to try and pay for your restuarant bill of £50 in 20p coins, they could refuse… but if your bill was only £7 they could also refuse, even though the "legal tender" maximum is £10. What you could do, if you were bloody minded about it is say "fine, I've made a reasonable attempt to pay. If you refuse to accept, then that's your problem" Essentially they'd either have to accept or take you to court for it. If the took you to court, the onus would then be on them to show you have defaulted on and have no intention of paying… and since you did actually offer to pay but they refused you have a "defence" and court costs should not be rewarded against you. And you could still pay it in 20ps (up to a value of £10 of course!)

  9. Well i'm just about to pay a baliff for a non payment of a paking ticket (which i thought i paid) £214.17 in pound coins n pennies, and gonna watch him count every penny

  10. If you want to pay ANY bill, debt – call any sort of payment whatever you like, any amount up to the specifics given as legal tender, it MUST be accepted, (whether in Court or not.). Quantities of coins ABOVE the legal tender amounts MAY or MAY NOT be accepted by the payee. Simple. Unfortunately most posters here seem not to understand English language or the Law.

  11. Some machines still dispense £5 notes – one is in Newcastle under Lyme. There are NO legal tender notes in Scotland – not even Scottish! Scotland does not do legal tender. However, if I want to pay a parking ticket,for example, in England I can use a mixture of low denomination coins (max value £1) as long as I give the exact amount of the tax.

  12. The 1971 coinage act states what is legal tender ( the previous figures are correct) however legal tender ONLY applys to debts, any other transaction is entirely an agreement between the parties concerned. What is perhaps more interesting is that it is the customers responsability to pay the EXACT amount requested and the vendor has no obligation to give change. so the Bus driver is legally entitled to refuse to give change if you try to pay a £2.50 fare with a tenner. think about it.

  13. just been having a good read. went to my local co/op post office with £6 of 2p’s in the money bags but the post office said they wont change them to a £5 note and £1 coin but would except then if i bought stamps or something but was not allowed to buy goods in the co/op (double standards) at the end of the day all uk money is legal tenner to spend however you like. OK far enough not say £50 in 1p’s but £6

  14. As I undersand it, generally once you park in a parking bay where charges apply, you are liable for the debt (that is you have received the goods before paying, like restaurants), so you should be able to pay with legal tender, but the machines do not always accept 1 and 2p coins, so what happens there?
    The bit that is unclear to me is, if the debt is more than 20p, are 1 and 2p coins legal at all, if not, then you would have to offer 11 £1 coins to settle a debt of £10.01, and no change would have to be given. Stange!

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