Legal Tender

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DEFINITION of 'Legal Tender'

Any official medium of payment recognized by law that can be used to extinguish a public or private debt, or meet a financial obligation. The national currency is legal tender in practically every country. A creditor is obligated to accept legal tender toward repayment of a debt. Legal tender can only be issued by the national body that is authorized to do so, such as the U.S. Treasury in the United States and the Royal Canadian Mint in Canada.

BREAKING DOWN 'Legal Tender'

Widely accepted currencies such as the U.S. dollar and euro are accepted as legal tender in many nations, especially those where foreign currencies are in short supply. Countries with extensive business and cultural ties may also accept each other's currencies as legal tender in limited amounts. For example, some U.S. and Canadian merchants located close to the U.S.-Canada border accept both Canadian dollars and U.S. dollars as payment for goods and services.
 
The popularity of cross-border and online shopping is increasing demand for more forms of legal tender; however, given official objection to such alternatives, these may still be some years away. In May 2013, the governor of Arizona vetoed a bill that would have made gold and silver coins legal tender in the state, in addition to existing U.S. currency. Bitcoin, another popular payment alternative, is a virtual online currency that can be used for a growing number of transactions but is not considered legal tender.

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