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Cash and the law in Spain: A guide to payment methods, limits and what's legal
Friday, November 12, 2021 @ 10:39 AM

WITH card payments having overtaken cash for first time in Spain as a result of the pandemic, more and more establishments are accepting plastic, mobile phone and Bizum for any amount, even a few cents – but consumers often feel embarrassed at not using cash for these sums, and a few traders are still insisting on notes and coins.

Can a shop refuse to sell you a loaf of bread or a carton of milk if you try to pay by card? And if so, where is the cut-off point? 

One of Spain's main consumer organisations, the OCU, has offered clarification.

“Under current laws, nobody is obliged to accept card payments,” it says, “but there are exceptions, such as taxis in most cities.

“In all cases, accepted payment methods must be displayed prominently.

“Any establishment is free to set a minimum expenditure for card payments, but this must be clearly indicated to customers where they can see it before deciding to make a purchase, in order for it to be valid.”

And there is a caveat: That minimum cannot, legally, be over €29.99.

If you spend €30 or more in one transaction, the seller cannot insist on cash

Long before the pandemic, a massive crackdown in Spain on all types of money laundering and tax evasion, and even hitherto 'legal' tax avoidance, meant cash came under rigorous scrutiny – legislation passed almost exactly three years ago paved the way for today's ever-growing panorama of people walking around with empty purses when shopping.

Royal Decree, or Bill of Law number 19/2018, of November 23, covering payment services and other urgent measures pertaining to financial matters, states that if the sum payable is less than €30, establishments do have the right to require cash-only payments.

But once the amount reaches €30, all traders are obliged by law to offer other payment options besides notes and coins – which can include debit or credit cards, cash cards, mobile phone applications, or even bank transfers depending upon the type of business...

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