I've read that legal tender laws require a debt collector to accept any legal tender for the debt. Does the law also obligate the debt collector to return any change owed?

So suppose I walk into a sit-down restaurant, order a $2 soda, drink it, and then ask for my check. I'm now in debt for $2 to the restaurant. Suppose I somehow had managed to acquire a rare $10,000 note (which is technically still legal tender), and were to present it as payment for my bill (obviously not the smart choice, as the note is undoubtedly worth more than face value to collectors!). If I'm not mistaken, the restaurant is legally obligated to accept my note as payment...are they also legally obligated to provide me with $9,998 in change?

  • 1
    They aren't legally obligated to accept your note as payment either.
    – JohnFx
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 13:20
  • 2
    As a more realistic question, many small restaurants and mom-and-pop stores also have signs that they will not accept $50 and $100 bills for payment (and return change to the customer). Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 15:04
  • @JohnFx the first article I linked suggests otherwise: "However, restaurants that do not collect payment until after a meal is served must accept any legal tender for the debt incurred in purchasing the meal.". Are you saying that statement is inaccurate?
    – Kevin K
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 13:55
  • I also updated my example to make it clearer that I was talking about that sort of situation
    – Kevin K
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 13:59

1 Answer 1


They're not legally obligated to provide you change. They're not legally obligated to accept more than you owe, either.

Generally, ordering food in a restaurant is not considered a loan, and they're not your creditors.

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