How much can you legally pay in coins?

Ever fancied paying an unfair fine in buckets of pennies, or been told off at the till for counting small change to pay for something? Yahoo! Finance takes a look at your rights.

Joanna Bath didn’t see the problem, the Gosport ice cream seller had been paying for her weekly ASDA shop in £2 coins for ages, but last week her money was refused and she was told she should go away and come back with notes.

“I’m livid about the whole situation,” she told news site Portsmouth.co.uk.

The store manager quickly apologised and gave Ms Bath a £15 voucher. But what if they flat refused to accept the money?

Not the first time

Back in 2006 Michael Rees of Tonteg, South Wales, was told he could no longer keep paying his £650 debt in instalments of 4,000 penny pieces (as he had been for months).

Meanwhile in 2009, Gary Southall tried to settle a £1,300 fine with a shopping trolley full of 1p pieces — he was also refused.

Gary Southall tried to settle a £1,300 debt with bags of pennies loaded into a shopping trolley. Image: David Jones/PA …


According to the Coinage Act of 1971, 1ps and 2ps are only legal tender up to the value of 20p. But that doesn't mean you can't pay more than that in pennies if the person or business you're paying agrees.

Legal tender has a very narrow meaning in the UK. Put simply, you can't be successfully sued for non-payment of a debt if you give the correct amount of money in legal tender. That's it.

Everything else is up to the two parties involved in the transaction.

And fans of wacky ways to protest can take heart from one thing: £1 and £2 coins are legal tender up to any amount you like. Even if they're frozen in ice or put in a bathtub full of honey.

What coins can you pay with:

  • 1p - for any amount not exceeding 20p
  • 2p - for any amount not exceeding 20p
  • 5p - for any amount not exceeding £5
  • 10p - for any amount not exceeding £5
  • 20p - for any amount not exceeding £10
  • 50p - for any amount not exceeding £10
  • £1 - for any amount
  • £2 - for any amount

The rules for notes:

You can pay any amount in bank notes but:

  • Bank of England notes are not legal tender in Scotland or Northern Ireland
  • Scottish and Northern Irish banknotes are not legal tender in England and Wales

But while shops are under no obligation to take Scottish or Northern Irish notes in England and Wales (and vice versa), as the Bank of England explains in practice you may well have no problems at all using them.