HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >

Discussion

Cash only eateries

Mrs. OC and I stopped for a sandwich at lunchtime today When I went to pay my $21.00 check, I handed my VISA checkcard to the cashier. She said "Sorry we are strictly cash only."
I pointed out that there was no sign to that effect and she said "Well we do not advertise credit cards at all." Am I wrong to feel that I should have been warned, or should I have looked for the credit card stickers?

We ate in a diner yesterday, and as you entered there was a large sign that said "Sorry we are cash only" I did know that before hand which was lucky. I was footing the bill for 14 people.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. I prefer to be notified up front as well - credit cards are so common these days, and I do not always see the credit card stickers.

    1. I always consider being able to use credit cards as a privilege and not a consumer right. Just because the use of it is so common does not make it wrong to not put a big sign right at the door. One can argue that it is only beneficial to the businesses, especially restaurants, to accept credit cards. I guess you can always go get cash and return to pick up your sandwich, but not quite the same when you finished dinner with 14 other people. Small businesses are literally eaten up by all these bank transaction fees.

      Have you ever thought of the possibility that NONE of your credit cards work for whatever reason? It happened to my boyfriend once.

      1. Most places seem to understand that cash only is unexpected, and some of us need to plan for it. I personally seldom carry much cash - my budget and record keeping fares much better using plastic.

        Places that don't have mention of this (sign and/or menu notation) will keep having "situations" that take time away from the rest of business and create discomfort for those caught unaware.

        1. My mother was in Virginia attending a wedding last year and the restaurant where they had the rehearsal dinner did not accept credit cards - and there was no warning. They weren't told when the reservation for 25 was made and there were no signs in the restaurant. Even between them they didn't have enough cash to cover it. The restaurant took a personal check from one of the Maryland family members.

          1. Well, if a restaurant has this policy and doesn't announce it, they'd better be prepared to accept IOU's.

            1. I've never been to a "Cash Only" restaurant where it's not posted in a conspicuous spot. They're risking a customer doesn't have the cash to pay or there's an ATM machine close by or conveniently located in their restaurant which they own and they make 9% off of it.
              Then again I only pay cash so it doesn't make a difference to me.

              1. If it was a sandwich counter type place it's common that they're cash only and don't have signs. Sit-down places always have signs because you've aready eaten by the time you pay. If your sandwich place was sit-down they should definitely have had signs letting you know in advance, credit cards are so common now that a lot of places take them but don't put up the stickers.

                1. Whenever I eat out anywhere, if I know that I don't have enough cash in my pocket to cover my meal- even if I don't plan on using it, I ask about credit cards before I order anything or at least make sure I see a sticker on the door and/or a machine by the register. Don't want any embarrassing surprises later!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Clarkafella

                    I ask too if there are no credit card signs on the menu or door Clarkafella. I try to pay cash anyway if it is under ten dollars to be considerate to the restaurant. And I try to leave a cash tip if possible. I have a soft spot in my heart for cash only places, they have some of the best food. I read somewhere a long time ago that if it's cash only, mama's in the kitchen watching everything like a hawk!

                  2. With eating out being as expensive as it is, I think they should all accept credit cards. I mean really who carries cash any more.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Ginger Bread Man

                      "With eating out being as expensive as it is"

                      There are plenty of places, even in Manhattan, where you can eat for under $20.

                      "I mean really who carries cash any more."

                      Lots of people still carry cash. I do and so do many others. If no one carried cash then the government could save itself a lot of money and stop printing it but this isn't the case.

                      1. re: KTinNYC

                        $20? Hell, honey, I can eat in NYC for way, way under $20! I think NYC is one of the easiest places in the US to get good, reasonably priced food.

                        I think I agree with the poster who said if I know I'm short on cash, I'll make a point of asking. And if I were hosting 14 people I REALLY would :)

                        1. re: chefathome

                          +1 for cash carrier. I find I spend a lot less money when I take out a set amount of cash for the week's pocket money and stick to it.

                        2. re: Ginger Bread Man

                          *snort* it's cheaper if they don't. volume volume volume.

                        3. I ran a restaurant some years back and one morning we came to work and lightening had struck the building. Power was back on but the computers had been hit including the bank's ATM in our building. All orders had to go to the kitchen on paper tickets and we told all customers when they arrived (or called for reservations) that we had had this problem and that it was a cash only day (Sunday).
                          Most were really good about driving to the nearest ATM or paying by check or cash. Still, some of them really complained as if it was our fault!

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: smartie

                            Did you rely on the bank's ATM for your customers to get cash to pay their bills?

                            If you did take credit cards and your terminal was down you could have just imprinted the credit cards manually and called for authorizations like they did in the old days (i.e. 15 years ago), then keyed them in when your terminal was back up.

                            1. re: hsk

                              no the nearest ATM in the same building was also down. We couldnt find the manual machine.

                              1. re: smartie

                                You dont need the machine, just use the old fashioned papers with the carbon and rub them over the credit card with a pencil. If these cant be found just take down the credit card numbers.

                                I personally would give away free meals before i told my customers they couldnt pay with their debit cards, because they would go down the street and find someone who would let them, and they might actually get good food there.

                                1. re: badvegan

                                  Businesses are charges a higher percentage if a card is not swiped.

                                  Some customers get MORTALLY OFFENDED and accuse you of invading their privacy in cases where you have to ask for their zip code and street address in order to confirm a non-swiped charge. I've had it happen to me many times while working craft fairs where I was unable to swipe a card through my terminal.

                          2. I always look for the stickers.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Naco

                              I'll ditto Naco's advice. Look for the 4-Icon stickers (Visa/MC/DC/Amex) posted on the windows by the front door and host/ess' (cashier) station. More than once, after quickly asking because I didn't see the stickers, I've turned and left because I didn't have any cash or wasn't willing to find an ATM and get some. There are just too many other restaurants about that willingly accommodate my credit usage.

                              There are two local restaurants that I've become a regular that have now have signs all over the place stating "No Credit Cards Accepted; Cash Only" as a result of catching new customers unaware after-the-fact.

                            2. It's 2009. If the place is cash-only, it's grossly inept for the management not to post the policy prominently. I have absolutely NOTHING against cash-only establishments -- so long as they make it clear.

                              And as in an example below, any place accepting a reservation for 25 that doesn't make the cash-only policy clear upon booking is beyond incompetent.

                              For the record, I pay cash at every locally-owned place I possibly can. It's cheaper for them, period -- and I know they get tons of college kids putting their 50-cent cookie on plastic.

                              1. Jfood expects the default to be accept a CC. If it is cash-only then please state so on the menu and please place that on the website if applicable.

                                There are a few restaurants (Ralph's in Philly) that only accepts cash and has an ATM machine in the dining room.

                                What jfood is noticing more and more is the non-acceptance of AMEX versus V/MC. Now jfood looks on the window for the sticker. Once jfood walked into a restaurant that had the AMEX sticker, the check was delivered in an AMEX holder and they then told jfood they did not accept AMEX. That was the only time he was upset.

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: jfood

                                  Well, that AMEX thing's been going on since at least the mid-'90s. Many places that are not typically expense-account oriented don't take AMEX because (1) the fees are too high, and (2) it's an unusual customer for that market who has AMEX but not V/MC.

                                  1. re: Karl S

                                    Absolutely agree on the reasoning, but he is not sure there was a downturn in restaurants accepting in the late 90's. He found just the opposite but, as you said, these were usually expense account places.

                                    But jfood will tell you that his hit rate is getting less and when he asks, he is usually told it was a recent change.

                                    1. re: jfood

                                      AMEX has a lock on the corporate expense card business, to be sure. And that's the main reason it's able to compete, as best I can tell. I have an Optima card since it debuted, and I try to use it once a month, but Visa is easier (I don't maintain a balance) and more universally accepted. It used to be that AMEX signified higher credit status (because, before Optima, you couldn't run a balance on it), but those days are long past.

                                      Rememeber BankAmericard? I love it when I find a place that still has that decal in the window (about once every couple of years I run across one, it seems).

                                      1. re: Karl S

                                        We're showing our age. Jfood was a beta-tester for the new concept called on-line banking for Chase in 1981. They sent him a floppy disk (remember those) and you inserted on the temporary drive of your Compaq AT and used a 1200 baud modem dial-up. If our kids ever knew their parents were two years younger than Fred Flintsone.

                                        1. re: Karl S

                                          amex is awesome. and you get one free with costco membership.
                                          customer service can't be beat.

                                    2. re: jfood

                                      Anyone else think cash only plus ATM in the dining room is piling on? I mean, not only are we going to make it cash only, we're going to extort an extra fee if you're out of cash and want to use our ATM. The only place I've personally seen that so far was in tourist trap Gatlinburg, TN.

                                      1. re: CrazyOne

                                        Not Jfood...he views as a "stupid tax".

                                        Go to a restaurant that has "CASH ONLY" on the menu. Then order. then not knowinghow much cash in the pocket. then see an ATM machine.

                                        Worth the $3 fee to keep that story inthe closet.

                                        1. re: CrazyOne

                                          I can think of a number of restaurants that have been around for decades that have this arrangement, i.e., ATMs on premise and Cash Only. I always have cash on me, and believe it or not, I have never used an ATM machine in my life, so Cash Only has never been a problem for me......the only time an ATM/Cash Only arrangement would bother me is if the restaurant was an expensive fine dining type place.....if it was a moderately priced placed place where the food was good.....The ATM and any fees attached would not even be a thought worth considering.

                                          1. re: fourunder

                                            Mandina's in New Orleans is cash only, and has an ATM in the bar area- I think it is a pretty good idea...

                                      2. Honestly, it depends on the establishment. If it's a place in a neighborhood that isn't predominantly English-speaking, I don't go in expecting that it accepts credit cards. So for example, if it's someplace in the San Gabriel Valley section of Southern California (which is almost entirely Chinese in culture and language), unless they have the credit card stickers, I don't assume that they take credit cards because they almost certainly don't. Cash only is just the way it is there, and plastic is the exception.

                                        If it's someplace with checks that are usually under $10, I don't assume that they'll take credit cards either, so yes, I'll usually look for credit card stickers.

                                        Mainstream sit down places in the $20 and up range, I definitely do assume take credit cards, though, so I would be surprised unless "Cash Only" was posted somewhere.

                                        1. Maybe it's just me, but a "cash only" sign just seems like a big "rob me" sign....
                                          I would think that alone would make the charge option more appealing to the business. (Yes, I know the fees and the small profit margin...but you end up paying one way or another...I'd rather have less chance of harm coming to my staff and guests.)

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: meatn3

                                            I don't know where you are living that crime is such an issue that a cash business is at such high risk of being robbed but thankfully crime has dropped here in NYC so we can have a large number of cash only businesses.

                                            1. re: KTinNYC

                                              It is not the crime rate so much - it is that so few restaurants in the areas I've lived are cash only. That makes them stand out and cause them to seem a better risk than a convenience store. From working in the restaurant industry in many areas I have seen that the cash only ones have a much higher ratio of robberies and break-ins.

                                              Cash only is not an anomaly in NYC - they are every where. In many areas it is the opposite. Heck, even the fast food places seem to all take plastic from the signage I've noticed.

                                          2. Most higher priced restaurants that I know of accept some type of CC. One major exception is Peter Lugers in Brooklyn; that only accepts their own card. I was there recently and I think when I made the res, they gave me that info.

                                            If I go into a lower priced restaurant (Regina's Pizza in Boston today), I bring enough cash.

                                            If a high priced restaurant has a cash only policy and they don't disclose it, seems like they are setting themselves up for a lot of "misunderstandings" and an in house high fee ATM can only create hard feelings.

                                            1. To me this is honestly unforgivable. I am a restaurant owner who does more than an 80% debit card business. I very rarely have run into the cash only restaurant, and they are usually, at least around here in Texas, small asian or indian food restaurants that just opened. (but this i sort of expect now so i do stop by the atm and grab a few bucks)

                                              I take credit cards and it only costs me 2.7% fee, i have no idea why anyone would want to piss off thier customers, or not make a sale to save 2.7%. Honestly if you need money that bad maybe you should just raise all of your prices by 2.7 percent (a couple pennies) so you wont piss people off.

                                              You are very lucky to have had that much cash on you, i have had the same four dollars in my wallet for probably 6 months, i just dont use cash anymore because i like the accounting convenience of debit cards.

                                              1. In the given scenario I think both sides are right/wrong. The patron should look for the stickers and the restaurant should have a sign.

                                                On the general issue of cash/credit, I carry both. I use credit if I really didn't like the place. Average and above, I use cash. Tips are always cash.

                                                1. I was in Amsterdam on New Year's. All of the ATMS were down. I had a flight back at 4am the next morning. I didn't even think to ask if the restaurant I was in took credit cards; there were absolutely no signs and at the time I was unfamiliar with establishments that were cash only. AFTER the meal was over (which was quite good- the food in Amsterdam if you've never been there is typically as fresh as in France) the waiter informed me and my now evil ex that they did not take cards. Let me reiterate that this was New Years Eve and the ATMS all over Amsterdam were not working. It took 20 mins of debate for the waiter to agree to borrow the neighboring restaurant's credit card machine. What else could we do? We had even offered to mail a check... once we got back to the US with a working ATM. I understand that credit card companies charge fees, some of which are quite high (i.e. Am Ex). However, I do believe that it is the restaurant's responsibility to inform the customer upfront, BEFORE the meal, whether verbally or with a sign that is easily visible when entering the restaurant. (Not teeny teeny tiny either).

                                                  1. This happened to me recently at a small, very popular restaurant in the West Village. They told us to go to an ATM a couple of blocks away. Fine, but we had theatre tix with a early curtain and this wasn't the best way to end, what up to that point, was a great dinner.
                                                    I don't think it's an unreasonable expectation for a cash only restaurant to have "cash only" printed on the menu.

                                                    1. And then what do you do when you're me and don't carry my ATM/debit card around?

                                                      Actually, even though I'm a credit card addict, I almost always do pay cash at restaurants. But let's say I was caught unaware and had only my usual little stash of cash on me ($20) and wasn't forewarned that ccs aren't accepted. And I don't have a card to access their, or any, ATM. Then what?

                                                      Btw, I'm not saying that all places MUST take credit cards but I think it would be prudent to be up front about it. Save everyone some hassle.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Jasz

                                                        There are two restaurants we go to regularly, both quite upscale, which are cash/check only. When I phone for a reservation they always make it a point of mentioning that they're BYO and cash/check only. I wouldn't want either of those to come as a surprise to me.

                                                      2. There are actually a surprising number of restaurants down here that are cash/local check only, including a few Southern Living/Coastal Living favorites. But they always include that info in the server's intro speil right before rattling off the daily specials.

                                                        1. Maybe it's a good thing to tuck a blank check into your wallet, and leave it there just in case you encounter such a situation. I can't imagine a cash-only restaurant not accepting a check.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: CindyJ

                                                            I see places that say "cash only", no mention of personal checks accepted.

                                                            1. re: monku

                                                              I think it can depend on what part of the country you are visiting. While snowmobiling In rural Wyoming, I have been asked for a personal check (from CA) instead of my credit card several times. These places took credit cards. Of course, they look at you funny if you ask for a room key too, so they may be more trusting in that neck of the woods.

                                                              1. re: BN1

                                                                It is kind of strange that this topic has come up again- in the last month I have gone to a liquor store (not my usual place), had them ring up my purchase (around $50), then had them inform me that their credit card machine was down. He just told me to pay him the next time I was by there!

                                                                Last week the same thing happened in a Indian restaurant- I told the guy that I wouldn't be able to return for a month or so- he still just shrugged and said to just pay him next time!

                                                                People are mostly pretty nice...

                                                          2. I had an embarrasing experience at a (dive) bar after a party one night. We had all left a booze cruise and wandered into a hole-in-the-wall and started having drinks. I ordered a round for approximately eight people and when the drinks arrived I asked if I could put it on a tab and handed the bartender my credit card. She explained it was cash only (there was no sign indicating this). I explained I had $20 on me and asked for the total. another of the party goer's told her to put it on his tab and she took the money out. I handed him the $20 and that was the end of it. It was a little embarrassing but more annoying. Had a sign been in the window, I would have ran to an ATM beforehand.