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Can businesses in Italy legally refuse card payments?

Giampietro Vianello
Giampietro Vianello - [email protected]
Can businesses in Italy legally refuse card payments?
A tobacconist's stall in Naples' Forcella district. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Despite an increase in electronic transactions in recent years, Italy is still a cash-reliant economy – but can shops in the country actually turn down card payments?


Though the use of electronic payments has significantly increased in recent years – the value of cashless transactions recorded a 13-percent year-on-year increase in the first half of 2023 – Italy is still one of the most cash-reliant economies in the world. The country ranked 28th out of 144 nations in the 2024 Cash Intensity Index published by the Cashless Society Community think-tank.

And while an increasing number of shops, cafes and tabaccherie (tobacco shops) around the country accept card payments, producing a debit card or mobile phone to pay for an espresso may still be met with a pained expression and a solo contanti (‘cash only’) request in some parts of the country.

But can businesses in Italy lawfully turn down card payments? 

From a legal point of view, there seems to be very little room for confusion.

Under Article 15 of Decree 179/2012, all businesses offering items or services to the general public are required to accept card payments of any amount from at least one type of credit card, one type of debit card and prepaid cards.

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In November 2022, Giorgia Meloni’s administration proposed a law amendment allowing merchants to refuse card payments for amounts under 60 euros, but the plan was later scrapped following pressure from the EU. 

The requirement applies to all kinds of businesses dealing directly with the public, including: 

  • Shops and street vendors
  • Blacksmiths, carpenters and plumbers
  • Accountants, notaries and lawyers
  • Healthcare professionals
  • Restaurants, bars and cafes
  • Hotel, B&B and guest houses

As of June 30th 2022, there are also penalties for non-compliance, with businesses caught refusing card payments facing “a 30-euro administrative fee plus four percent of the value of the transaction previously denied” unless they can prove that their point-of-sale terminal had a malfunction.


For instance, in the case of a 100-euro transaction, the merchant who did not accept payment by card is liable to receive a fine equal to 34 euros (30 plus 4, i.e. 4 percent of 100).

Having said that, while the law does compel business owners to accept card payments and fines are in place for those flouting the rules, the extent to which the requirement has been enforced so far remains unclear, with some shops in the country still insisting on cash-only transactions, especially for small sums.

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The enforcement of any rules involving electronic payments is up to Italy’s financial police (Guardia di Finanza).

Customers who are denied the option of paying by card can report the business in question to the police by calling the Guardia di Finanza at toll-free number 117 or alternatively by filing a report at the nearest station.


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Stewart 2024/05/10 05:42
Italy has the least-reliable EFTPOS machines in the world. It's amazing how often they are not working!

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