Why Is ”McDonald’s Cash Only” at Night?

Why Is Mcdonald's Cash Only At Night

You’ve got a late-night food craving, so hop in your car and move to a McDonald’s shop.

After waiting your turn in the drive-through line, you talk to the drive-through employee whose voice squawks through the speaker that they’re cash only at the moment.

You just wanted to satisfy your night cravings- why is this Mcdonald’s cash only at night?


All 24-hour McDonald’s locations need to restart their register systems every night. Unfortunately, while the computers are rebooting, their credit card readers don’t function, so there is a time frame when they can only make cash transactions.

The bottom line: you’ll have to satiate your food fix at another drive-through restaurant, hit up an ATM for some cash, or wait for the computer system to come back online.

Typically this will take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes. That’s a lot of wait time if you need to get some food immediately.

McDonald’s has been a fast food staple for decades, opening in 1950 and operating globally.

With the advent of 24-hour drive-throughs, getting your quarter pounder with cheese and a milkshake has become more convenient than ever.

However, there are times when the McDonald’s Point Of Sale (POS) gets rebooted, frustrating late-night eaters.

A Brief History of McDonald’s

A Brief History Of Mcdonald's

McDonald’s is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. Children know the famous “Golden Arches” (which are styled to resemble French fries), and consumers worldwide flock to their many locations.

The chain restaurant is so popular it’s been estimated that McDonald’s (Mickey Dees if you’re in the know) serves more than 69 million customers daily.

More Than Just Burgers and Fries

Although McDonald’s is best known as a joint where you can get a tasty burger and fries, its menu offerings have diversified over the years.

Are you craving some chicken, fish, fruit, or salad? McDonald’s has you covered, with an impressive array of these items on its menu.

Most McDonald’s locations also have vegetarian options and wraps; some even have food tailored to local consumers’ tastes.

The Golden Arches logo is ubiquitous and has been a mainstay at McDonald’s locations since its inception in 1953. They operate in over 100 countries and have more than 40,000 outlets they sell their food.

Why Is “McDonald’s Cash Only” at Night?

Cash Only At Night

Typically, the only McDonald’s outlets that accept only cash are the 24-hour locations. They need to reboot their cash register systems daily, which can take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes. I hope you have some cash or will be in a food fix.

Popular Seasonal Items at McDonald’s

Pick the right time of year to hit your local McDonald’s, and treat yourself.

The McRib and Shamrock Shake are two of the most popular items on the McDonald’s menu and are only available for a limited time.

When Is McDonald’s Cash Only?

When Is Mcdonald's Cash Only

Again, this only applies to the 24-hour locations. McDonald’s locations that close overnight typically reboots their payment system overnight, so they can accept card payments the entire time they’re open.

For the 24-hour locations, the most common timeframe for cash, the only payment option, is between 2 and 3 am. This tends to be the slowest time for food orders. Thus this is the timeframe most select to reboot their register systems.

Beware of Nefarious Employees

Although the most common and likely reason your McDonald’s is cash only is because they are rebooting their payment system, there may be other, more shady reasons.

Many consumers speculate that some McDonald’s only go cash because the employees pocket the money. If it is late in the night and the manager has left for the day, it’s a golden opportunity for these lower-wage employees to pocket a few extra bucks.

Most, but not all, McDonald’s has internal security cameras in place to deter employee theft. If you’re skeptical that the card readers are down, ask to speak with a manager and see if that helps the card readers “come back online.”

Get Your McDonald’s Fix

Get Your Mcdonald's Fix

If you’ve got a hunger that only some late-night Mickey Dee’s will resolve, ensure you’ve got some cash on hand.

Many of the 24-hour locations are cash only during some point of the night. Typically, this falls between 2 and 3 am hours, although the hours at your local McDonald’s may vary.

Treat yourself if you are in a new part of the world and see a regional menu offering. And remember – there may be a nefarious reason that employees are saying they only accept cash transactions. Beware of this and use your best judgment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Pay With Cash for My Online Order?

Unfortunately, McDonald’s online ordering app does not allow for cash transactions. Your only options are credit cards, Apple Pay, or other card-based payments.

If you’ve got a late-night food craving, one cash-based option is GrubHub. They are the only major delivery service that will still accept cold hard cash.

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