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Wednesday, Nov 26, 2014
Community News

Can area retail establishments turn down legal tender?


Published:

— A Valrico man recently got a surprise when he went to pay for his breakfast.

He was told his money was no good.

He said that when he handed the cashier a worn, 1963 $20 bill, he was told it might not be real, since it lacked an embedded strip and watermark.

Embarrassed, he fished around in his billfold to find a newer bill. He paid and then headed to his credit union where they verified the 1963 bill was valid currency, not counterfeit.

A person at the restaurant said that while counterfeit bills are rarely seen, the gentleman was asked for another bill because the one presented was extremely worn. However, he added, they would have taken the older one if he’d had nothing else.

But the question remains — is a restaurant within its rights to question United States currency?

According to the United States Department of the Treasury website, www .treasury.gov, even though the Coinage Act of 1965 deems United States currency “legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues,” there is no federal mandate that individuals, organizations or private businesses must accept such currency, unless a state law says otherwise. Therefore, businesses may create their own policies.

Local examples are commonplace: The Selmon Expressway doesn’t accept cash for tolls. Hillsborough Area Rapid Transit requires payment of cash fares in exact change and takes nothing larger than a $1 bill, according to their website, www.gohart.org.

Skateland of Brandon stipulates “nothing larger than $20s in the snack bar, as they have little change available,” said manager Lori Pate, who has “seen a few counterfeit bills but not that many in almost 31 years. I send torn or bad money to the bank all the time so they can take them out of circulation.”

Additionally, currency wears out. Dollar bills, which are passed frequently, have a life expectancy of about 18 months and larger bills tend to last longer, according to the United States Secret Service website. Torn, worn or damaged notes can be taken to commercial banks for redemption. Those institutions send them to Federal Reserve Banks, where they are destroyed and replaced by new currency.

To learn more about the paper currency that is exchanged every day, visit www.newmoney.gov or the “Know Your Money” page at www.secretservice .gov.

Send news of community interest to Barbara.Routen@gmail.com.

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