I’m paying in sterling, so what’s wrong with my cash?

It's sterling, but why don't shop staff realise?

It's sterling, but why don't shop staff realise?

Have you ever had your sterling banknotes turned away in the UK? I have, so has my wife and her family, and this has been going on for as long as I can remember. I know I’m not alone.

Picture the scene. I go into a food store, somewhere in England. 

I select my groceries and go to the checkout. I pull out my cash, which is not fake, and was issued by a bank.  It has "sterling" printed on it, and clearly states the amount (£5, £10 or £20).

The assistant looks at it strangely, and says: "Oh, sorry.  We don’t accept that, but I will call someone over." 

Another assistant comes over, looks at it strangely and says: "Never seen one of them before."

I explain it has "sterling" printed on it.

The assistant says she had better call the manager over to check.

So the manager comes over and has a good, thorough, look at it. It’s now me, three members of staff, and a growing queue. But, no, I am going to stand my ground.

The manager says: "Sorry, in 40 years I’ve been working, I’ve never seen one of those and can’t accept it."

I explain I got the money from a bank’s cashpoint. But that still doesn’t cut it.

I ask why. The answer – they don’t accept "Irish" money.


I’m normally calm on these matters. Unlike my wife, who usually delivers a geography lesson.

Like Scotland, banks in Northern Ireland print their own currency. For some reason, I’ve never had issues spending my Scottish notes.

On the other hand, I regularly have trouble spending notes I’ve brought back from Northern Ireland in a variety of stores. This ranges from small convenience stores (fair enough) to big household names (who should know, or at least, train their staff better).

So, whenever we return from Northern Ireland, or get visitors from there, we encourage them to withdraw cash in England, or face a possible in-store standoff.

It is not all bad news.  A quick phone call to the store’s head office to vent our frustration resulted in vouchers being sent to us, and the promise of staff training.

Over time, we’ve worked out which stores don’t cause an issue. We’ll sometimes test problem stores, but we never have problems depositing our sterling in a bank account.

I know I’m not alone. So what’s the best excuse you’ve had from a store for not liking the colour of your money? Share your stories in our forum.