Cash payments have been declining steadily in the Netherlands over the past decade, and the pandemic has further accelerated the decline. According to the De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) daily payments survey, the share of cashMoney in physical form such as banknotes and coins. More transactions dropped from 30% to 15% during the pandemic. It has since bounced back to 20-25%.
The Netherlands: Share of Cash Payments, 2020-2021
In July 2021, the DNB called on stakeholders in the cash cycleRepresents the various stages of the lifecycle of cash, from issuance by the central bank, circulation in the economy, to destruction by the central bank. More to enter into agreements to ensure that cash remains readily accessible and available for the next five years.
Last week, the major Dutch banks, the Dutch Payments Association, representatives of consumers, retailers, the hospitality industry, petrol stations, cash services providers, and the DNB signed the covenant. The agreements will, in principle, be in place for a period of five years. The Minister of Finance presented it to the House of Representatives.
The covenant sets out agreements among the parties to safeguard cash’s permanent availability and accessibility. They cover various topics related to cash, such as the number of ATMs, fallback options for electronic payments, an inclusive paymentA transfer of funds which discharges an obligation on the part of a payer vis-à-vis a payee. More system, and anti-money laundering measures. Banks have agreed to keep fees for cash services unchanged until mid-2023.
The new agreements were reached amid the declining use of cash at points of sale in the Netherlands and a cash infrastructure under pressure. For example, bank branches provide fewer cash services increasingly, the number of ATMs is declining, and retailers’ unit costs of cash transactions are rising.
If cash were to disappear, problems could occur in the event of disruptions in electronic payments since cash functions as a fall-back option in such cases. In addition, it could be problematic for those who depend on cash as their main means of payment. Moreover, cash is a public good. It is in the public interest that everyone in society can use it without any problems and maintain good access to it.
Besides laying down specific agreements for the next five years, the covenant also marks the start of a new study that should explore how the public interest in cash is best safeguarded in the longer term. With the use of cash in a steady decline, questions about cash’s funding and market organisation arise. The study will identify various options and should be completed within ten months of the covenant’s signing. The Minister of Finance can subsequently advise the House of Representatives, after which decision-making can occur.