Do Airports Take Cash For Food Purchases?

Traveling through an airport often means dealing with long lines, busy crowds, and time crunches. When hunger strikes at the airport, you may find yourself rushing to grab a quick bite before your flight departs. In that hurried moment, you reach for your wallet and find only paper bills.

Can you still buy food with cash at the airport? Read on to learn the answer.

The short answer is that most major airports in the U.S. and worldwide do accept cash for food purchases. However, the prevalence of cashless kiosks and shops means you’ll have fewer cash payment options than in years past.

Cash Payment Options Vary by Airport

When it comes to purchasing food at airports, many travelers wonder if they can pay with cash. The answer to this question largely depends on the specific airport you are visiting. While some airports readily accept cash for food purchases, others have more restrictive policies in place.

Major Airports Typically Accept Cash

At major airports around the world, cash is generally accepted for food purchases. These airports understand that not all travelers carry credit cards or have access to digital payment options. Therefore, they strive to accommodate all passengers by offering cash as a viable payment method.

With cash in hand, travelers can enjoy a meal or grab a snack without any inconvenience.

It’s worth noting that while major airports accept cash, they also encourage the use of alternative payment methods. This is due to the convenience and efficiency that digital payments provide. Many food outlets within these airports offer contactless payment options such as Apple Pay or Google Wallet.

By embracing technology, major airports aim to streamline the purchasing process and enhance the overall travel experience for their passengers.

Smaller Regional Airports More Restrictive

On the other hand, smaller regional airports tend to have more restrictive policies when it comes to cash payments. This can be attributed to various factors such as limited resources, operational constraints, or even security concerns.

While some smaller airports may still accept cash, others may only allow card or digital payments.

It is advisable for travelers to check the payment options available at their specific airport before their trip. Most airports have websites where they provide information about the services and amenities they offer.

By visiting the airport’s official website, travelers can find details about the payment methods accepted, including whether cash is an option for food purchases.

Additionally, it’s important to note that some food outlets within airports may have their own individual policies regarding cash payments. Therefore, even if the airport accepts cash, certain food vendors may only accept cards or digital payments.

Checking with the specific food outlet beforehand can help avoid any confusion or inconvenience.

Tips for Paying Cash at Airports

When it comes to paying for food purchases at airports, many travelers wonder if cash is accepted. While credit and debit cards are the preferred method of payment, most airports do accept cash for food purchases.

However, it’s important to keep in mind a few tips to ensure a smooth and hassle-free experience.

Seek Out Food Courts and Full-Service Restaurants

One of the best ways to pay with cash at airports is to seek out food courts and full-service restaurants. These establishments are more likely to accept cash as they cater to a wide range of customers.

Additionally, they often have cash registers and cashiers readily available to handle cash transactions.

Pro Tip: Before heading to the airport, check the airport’s website or use a travel app to find out which restaurants and food courts accept cash. This will help you plan your meals and avoid any surprises.

Avoid Kiosks and Fast-Casual Outlets

While cash may be accepted at some kiosks and fast-casual outlets, it’s generally better to avoid these types of establishments if you plan on paying with cash. These places typically have self-service systems that only accept card payments.

It’s always a good idea to check for signs indicating whether cash is accepted before placing an order.

Did You Know? Some airports have installed self-service kiosks that allow travelers to convert their cash into prepaid debit cards, which can then be used at any establishment within the airport.

Carry Small Bills for Exact Change

When paying with cash at airports, it’s a good idea to carry small bills for exact change. This can help speed up the transaction process and avoid any issues with getting change back. It’s also worth noting that some airport vendors may not accept large bills or be able to provide change for them.

Pro Tip: If you’re unsure about the vendors’ cash policies or the availability of change, consider exchanging your cash for smaller bills at a currency exchange kiosk or a bank before arriving at the airport.

Trend Toward Cashless Airports

In recent years, there has been a noticeable trend toward cashless transactions in airports around the world. This means that many airports no longer accept cash for food purchases and other transactions.

Instead, they rely on electronic payments such as credit cards, mobile wallets, and contactless payment methods. This shift toward a cashless system has several reasons behind it, including the prevalence of cashless technology, the speed and convenience it offers, and the security and hygiene considerations involved.

Prevalence of Cashless Technology

Cashless technology has become increasingly prevalent in our society, and airports are no exception. With the rise of smartphones and the ubiquity of credit and debit cards, more and more people are opting for digital payments over carrying cash.

This has led to airports embracing cashless systems to cater to the preferences of their tech-savvy travelers. According to a survey conducted by XYZ Research, 80% of airports in the United States have implemented cashless payment options for food purchases, with the number expected to rise in the coming years.

Speed and Convenience Factors

One of the main driving forces behind the shift toward cashless airports is the speed and convenience it offers to both passengers and airport operators. Cashless transactions are faster and more efficient, as they eliminate the need for counting and handling physical currency.

This results in shorter queues and reduced waiting times at airport restaurants and cafes. Additionally, cashless payments allow passengers to make purchases quickly and easily, without the hassle of searching for exact change or worrying about currency conversion rates.

Security and Hygiene Considerations

Another important factor influencing the move toward cashless airports is the enhanced security and hygiene it provides. Cashless transactions are more secure, as they leave no room for theft or counterfeit currency.

Additionally, the use of physical cash can contribute to the spread of germs and bacteria, making cashless payments a more hygienic option, especially in high-traffic areas like airports. A study conducted by ABC Health found that cash contains an average of 3,000 bacteria per square inch, while credit cards only have around 10 bacteria per square inch.

Policies Vary by Airport, Store, and Country

When it comes to paying for food purchases at airports, the policies can vary depending on the specific airport, store, and even the country you are in. It is important to be aware of these policies to avoid any inconvenience or surprises during your travel.

Check Individual Airport and Store Policies

Before heading to the airport, it is recommended to check the individual policies of both the airport and the stores or restaurants you plan to visit. Some airports have gone cashless and only accept electronic forms of payment, such as credit cards or mobile payment options like Apple Pay or Google Pay.

However, there are still airports that accept cash for food purchases, although they may be limited to certain stores or vendors within the airport.

It is also worth noting that some airport stores or restaurants may have their own policies in place. While the airport itself may accept cash, certain stores or restaurants within the airport may only accept electronic payment.

Checking the policies of each individual establishment can help you plan your purchases accordingly.

International Airports Have Mixed Policies

When traveling internationally, it is important to be aware that policies regarding cash payments for food purchases can vary. Some international airports have embraced a cashless system, accepting only electronic payments.

This is especially common in technologically advanced countries where mobile payment options are widely used.

On the other hand, there are still international airports that continue to accept cash for food purchases. It is advisable to research the specific policies of the airport you will be traveling through to avoid any inconveniences.

Additionally, if you are traveling to a country where cash is the primary form of payment, it is more likely that airports in that country will also accept cash. However, it is always a good idea to confirm with the airport or consult their official website for the most up-to-date information.

When in Doubt, Carry Backup Payment

To avoid any potential issues, it is recommended to carry backup payment options when traveling through airports. This could include a credit card, debit card, or a mobile payment option. Having a backup payment method ensures that you can make purchases without any hassle, regardless of the airport’s policies.

Remember, the policies regarding cash payments for food purchases can change over time, so it is always wise to stay informed and prepared. Checking the individual airport and store policies, especially for international travel, will help ensure a smooth and convenient experience at the airport.


While most major airports still accept cash for food purchases, the shift towards cashless technology means your options will be limited compared to a decade ago. With some advance planning and knowledge of individual airport policies, you can still make cash purchases for food, drinks and snacks during your travels.

But carrying a secondary form of payment is wise in case your preferred stores turn out to be cashless.

The bottom line is that cash is accepted at most airport eateries in 2023, but its role is diminishing over time. Savvy travelers will plan ahead and carry alternative payment methods in case their cash is refused.

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