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New Zealand Will Launch Community Cash Trials in 2024

Categories : Cash is available to all users, Cash is the first step of financial inclusion, Future of Cash, Innovation contributes to the efficiency of cash
January 29, 2024
Tags : Future of Cash, Innovation, New Zealand, Retailers
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand will launch and fund trials to test new ways for consumers and merchants to withdraw and deposit cash, including coins, at little or no cost.
Guillaume Lepecq

Chair, CashEssentials

This post is also available in: Spanish

Preserve or Redesign the Cash Cycle?

Many countries are seeing a decline in the use of cash for day-to-day transactions. This has reduced access to cash, as bank branches and ATMs have been closing. In turn, the cost of withdrawing and increasing cash has increased as the infrastructure and the volumes decline.

Some countries, including Sweden, the Netherlands, and Ireland, are adopting a legislative approach and are passing laws mandating that banks, or at least the large banks, ensure minimal access to cash. The arguments generally advanced by these governments are to ensure financial inclusion for those who struggle with digital payments and those who prefer to use cash to provide a more resilient payment system, typically in the case of cyber-attacks or outages.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) has adopted a different approach. Rather than preserve a cash infrastructure that has already been degraded, the RBNZ aims to redesign the cash cycle. In 2024, the bank will launch a range of cash trials in communities lacking a commercial bank branch or an ATM to test new ways for people and retailers to withdraw and deposit cash, including change at little or no cost.

Expanding the Role of Merchants in the Cash Cycle

In a November 2022 speech, Karen Silk, RBNZ’s assistant governor, stressed the importance of “exploring policies that support merchants having an expanded role in cash distribution to augment the current and shrinking commercial bank-centric cash system.” Silk added: “This could include supporting merchants:

The pilots will trial four different types of solutions:

The RBNZ will fund these trials.

New Zealand has seen a sharp decline in bank ATMs over the past decade, with numbers dropping from 2,552 in 2015 to 2,118 in 2022. Merchants have also increasingly needed help finding ways of depositing cash and obtaining change. This has increased costs for merchants, who, according to the RBNZ, bear 68% of the overall cash cost.

Te Moni Anamata – The Future of Money

“We know that New Zealanders, particularly in rural areas, still often rely on cash and value the certainty and convenience it provides, including when electronic options aren’t available or are off-line as we saw for large parts of the country during Cyclone Gabrielle,” said Ian Woolford, Director of Money and Cash. “This research project recognises the important role of retailers in the cash system and will test ways of ensuring that cash remains easy to get, spend, give as change, and bank.”

  “We’ll be looking for 2 or 3 districts, ideally with a few communities with populations of less than 10,000 that have lost most or all bank-provided counter and cash services. We’ll work with these communities to confirm their cash servicing needs and what possible solutions to trial. We’ll also invite national stakeholder groups to take an interest and provide advice. The trials will run for about 18 months to inform our future work to support cash use and the cash system.

“Electronic payments generally add to retailer and customer costs, but banks’ withdrawal from offering suitable local cash services makes it harder and more costly for retailers and customers to use cash.  We want the cash system to remain resilient and retailers and individuals to continue to enjoy its social and economic benefits.”

“As well as ensuring cash remains available and easy to use, keeping it circulating within communities is more cost and time-efficient for everyone, and it’s better for the environment due to lowered demand for cash-related freight or travel,” says Woolford.

This post is also available in: Spanish