What Are The Maximum Number Of Coins You Can Legally Pay With?

What Are The Maximum Number Of Coins You Can Legally Pay With?

Back in 2013, an irate motorist in Adelaide attempted to pay his traffic fine with nothing but loose change. The video of the incident went viral and online debate raged over whether the council was entitled to refuse the payment.

As we explained at the time, there are legal restrictions when it comes to paying for goods and services with coins – but how many is too many? This video has the answer.

Counting coins on the counter of the 7/11,
From a quarter past six ’til a quarter to seven,
The manager, Bevin, starts to abuse me,
“Hey man, I just want some muesli!”

So sang the penny-pinching Jemaine Clement on Flight of the Conchords while slowly deposing loose change onto a 7 Eleven counter. If this was in Australia, Bevan would have been right to abuse him – or at least to refuse him service.

Australian businesses aren’t even obliged to accept Australian banknotes, let alone pocket shrapnel. Simply put, refusing to accept a payment using legal tender status is not against the law.

Here’s what the Reserve Bank of Australia’s website has to say on the topic of using coins as legal tender:

A payment of coins is a legal tender throughout Australia if it is made in Australian coins, but this is subject to some restrictions about how much can be paid in coin. According to the Currency Act 1965 (section 16) coins are legal tender for payment of amounts which are limited as follows: [clear] [clear]

  • not exceeding 20c if 1c and/or 2c coins are offered (these coins have been withdrawn from circulation, but are still legal tender);
  • not exceeding $5 if any combination of 5c, 10c, 20c and 50c coins are offered; and
  • not exceeding 10 times the face value of the coin if $1 or $2 coins are offered.

[clear] [clear] For example, if someone wants to pay a merchant with five cent coins, they can only pay up to $5 worth of five cent coins and any more than that will not be considered legal tender.

In the above video, former Lifehacker editor and Finder head honcho Angus Kidman breaks down the rules for paying with coins along with some interesting tidbits such as how much $5 worth of each coin weighs. (Spooky fact: the silver coins all weigh exactly the same!)

[Via Finder.com.au]


  • (Spooky fact: the silver coins all weigh exactly the same!)

    Yes, 20c worth of 5c, 10c or 20c coins weighs exactly the same, but a 5c coin does not weigh “exactly the same” as a 20c coin.

    Also, 50c worth of 5/10/20c coins weighs a lot more than a single 50c coin.

    Type Weight/coin
    5c 2.8g
    10c 5.6g
    20c 11.2g
    50c 15.5g

      • I think that was part of what didnt make sense. For 5c, 10c, and 20c, then yes, their weights are proportionally consistent, but the 50c doesnt seem to be if it weights 15.5g. It would need to be 28g to keep that consistency, so either the weight isnt 15.5g, or the fact about silver coins all weighing the same is misleading or wrong.

        If they are referring to just the round coins, its accurate though.

  • Its weird what you can randomly come across sometimes. In one of the links (the one about businesses being able to refuse legal tender) is a picture that seemed familiar. Was only after someone in the comments identified the Mercury newspaper that I realised where I’d seen it. They made some comment about Tasmania.

    It wasnt Tasmania, it was a local fish and chip shop in Wollongong, Tommys Corner Fish and Chip shop in Corrimal to be exact, they made a great hamburger. Had been there for something like 50 years, I think the owners retired a couple of years back. I remember I always wanted that cash register, it was great.

  • Back in the day, I saved up and bought an ‘unwired’ modem (big mistake lol) from Dick Smith which was $249 and I paid with a rum bottle full of $2 coins.

    I just emptied the entire bottle on to the counter and slowly started counting the coins..
    $2, $4, $6, $8, $10…

    The cashier had a good lul and helped me count while the other customers raged at me, the cashier and life in general. Good times

    Iv been told multiple times by cabbies that they do not accept more than 10x coins of any combination

    • My parents are taxi drivers and as far as they are concerned, all money is good money. I know that by the end of the day they’ve had a good day, they could use their bags as weapons they’re so heavy.

  • I’d probably take my service elsewhere if someone refused to take my coins. Sometimes it is all I’ve got.
    Then there is the grumpy bus drivers who won’t take a $20 note, though that’s the lowest a machine will give and none of the businesses in the surrounding area will give you change for a bus (or, as happened to me one Sunday morning, they were all closed so I couldn’t get change and the bus drive wouldn’t let me on).

    • No.

      If you’re paying for goods or services (and remember, a fine is a service), you can only use whatever the other guy wants to take.

      If you’re paying a debt, the person’s obliged to accept a maximum of $20 in change – and only if that’s 10x$2. If you’ve got a mix of $1 and $2, you can make them accept a maximum of ten of them. If you want to use any silver as part of the mix, you’re down to a maximum of $5.

  • That seems stupidly low for some coins. I mean, I can understand the limits for smaller coins. No one wants to count out $5 worth of 5c coins and then wait around while the cashier verifies it. But we really can’t pay for $22 worth of goods with 11 x $2 coins? That seems ridiculous.

    • When you say “pay for”, you’re talking about an exchange. Your ‘legal tender’ doesn’t mean anything there and if the cashier says that they won’t accept anything except 1916 shillings, that’s what you need to give them.

      ONLY IF YOU’RE SETTLING A DEBT can you force them to take legal tender, and that’s where the restrictions come into play.

      So it’s not about paying at a cash register, it’s about repaying your home loan or paying back your co-worker for the cash they loaned you to get lunch yesterday.

  • Had a bank send me a credit card statement once for an amount that was less than a price of postage…yeah, was a while ago. So I went in with a $100 note which the teller wanted to refuse. Told them it was legal tender and to get their sh1t together and program their computers to roll over such stupid amounts to the following month like other banks did at the time. Manager got involved and just gave in and told the teller to just do it. I hate it when fwits don’t apply even the slightest bit of common sense, in this case the programmer or those directing policy at the bank and it actually costs EVERYONE more $ to deal with it.

  • Had this exact situation when I paid a third of a $750 fine in change. Cashier was OK with it, Supervisor wasn’t. I asked her to confirm legal limit on coin, she did, I made multiple $35 payments. End result the same.

  • What a great idea! I love the coins myself and just can’t leave one lie down without attention There are some valuable collectible ones among them may occur, by the way! There is a whole industry of collectors who get the pleasure of searching for the rare ones in the pocket change. I myself collect commemorative coins, but am interested in rare circulating pieces too; I usually search for the new additions to my collection at Coinsberg.com etc, because the metal change is not available in big amounts. Anyway, I just love coins 🙂

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