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Euro-area: ERPB publishes Report on Access and Acceptance of Cash

Categories : Cash connects people, Cash is the most widely used payment instrument, CashTech, Future of Cash
December 7, 2021
Tags : Acceptance, Access to cash, ECB, Euro
The Euro Retail Payments Board report finds that both access and acceptance of cash are broadly ensured throughout the euro area but are deteriorating. The paper identified specific issues related to access to and acceptance of cash and recommends monitoring this in the future to ensure that cash remains an inclusive, efficient and sustainable means of payment.
Diederik Bruggink

This post is also available in: Spanish

Diederik Bruggink is Head of Innovation and Payments at the European Savings and Retail Banking Group and he was co-chair of this ERPB working group on access to acceptance of cash, together with Anne-Sophie Parent from AGE.

In November 2020 the Euro Retail Payments Board (ERPB) set up a working group to prepare a report on access to and acceptance of cash and the respective conditions thereof. The ERPB is a high-level strategic body tasked with fostering the integration, innovation and competitiveness of euro retail payments in the European Union. Launched on 19 December 2013 by the ECB, the ERPB is chaired by a high-level representative of the ECB (currently Fabio Panetta) and comprises of members from the supply side of the market (notably the payment services provider community; banking representatives; representatives from payment institutions and an e-money representative) and representatives from the demand side of the market (notably consumer representatives and representatives from retailers with a physical presence; internet retailers; businesses/corporates; small and medium-sized enterprises, and national public administrations). In addition, five national central banks (NCBs) representing the Eurosystem, and one NCB representing the non-euro NCB community take part in ERPB meetings on a rotational basis. The European Commission is invited to attend these meetings as an observer.

A Diminishing Network of Access to Cash Points

Whilst the ERPB so far has been focusing on cashless payments, in November 2020 it expressed the view that access to and acceptance of cash is a relevant concern and may become a crucial issue in the light of developments driven by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The mandate of the working group states that “In the course of the structural changes in retail banking, credit institutions continue to adjust their branch networks and strive for optimising operational costs, implying the risk that cash services would become difficult to access in some areas. Whilst consumers and companies seem to still have, by and large, adequate access to cash services of credit institutions, there is evidence that the range of cash services offered is diminishing, at least in certain areas in the euro area. At the same time, the costs associated with acquiring and depositing cash by businesses and the general public seem to be rising.

There are growing concerns about a diminishing network of cash access points (withdrawals and lodgements of cash) – especially for coins – and the related service conditions. In order to safeguard (legal tender) cash as widely accepted and available means of payment and to promote a cooperative approach to improve the cash cycle, the working group will analyse the current cash service levels for consumers and businesses in the euro area and whether they meet customer needs. In case loopholes are identified, the working group may elaborate on them. ‘

The working group was invited to prepare a report summarising the stock take, their analyses and key findings regarding access to and acceptance of cash and the respective conditions thereof, including the following:

  1. Overview of the factors influencing the bank branch and ATM networks (credit institutions and, where applicable, IADs) and description of possible future initiatives how to avoid cash supply deficits, for example in rural areas;
  2. Overview of various initiatives aiming at ensuring adequate cash withdrawal and lodgement facilities, especially for smaller and medium sized enterprises (which usually do not contract CITs to take care of cash lodgements/withdrawals and need to rely on “local” cash services);
  3. Overview of obstacles regarding the acceptance of cash and initiatives aiming to ensure acceptance of cash also in the future; and
  4. Overview and evaluation of alternative ways where other actors (e.g. retailers, post offices) could offer services to provide access to cash (i.e. cashback, cash-in-shop etc.), including possible obstacles hindering such cash services.

The working group consisted of various ERPB members whilst the invitation to participate in the work was extended to other relevant third parties too, and as a result ATMIA, EVA and PostEurop participated to the work. The working group established four workstreams that each would tackle one of the four topics before. The workstreams drafted questionnaires that have been sent to various stakeholders.

Issues Related to Access and Acceptance of Cash

In line with the group’s mandate, the report focused on the gap analysis – based on a stocktaking exercise – on access to and acceptance of cash. Overall, the working group found that, despite the increase in the use of digital payment means, cash continues to be broadly accessible in the euro area, mainly via traditional cash access points. Additional (alternative) cash access points have also been identified, mainly in the form of independent ATM deployers (IADs), cashback and cash-in-shop schemes. The working group further identified specific issues related to access to and acceptance of cash.

For access to cash:

For acceptance of cash:

The Importance of Monitoring Future Access to Cash

Based on this analysis, the working group suggested revisiting the evolution of cash access and acceptance in the future to ensure that cash remains an inclusive, efficient and sustainable means of payment for consumers alongside digital retail payment means. In doing so, attention could be paid to other ways to provide access to cash in the market beyond alternative cash access points (e.g. IADs, cashback and cash-in-shop) and what role they could best play in the future. The evolution of access to and acceptance of cash could be further monitored through either a new ERPB working group or a dedicated body (e.g. the European Forum for Innovation in Payments, given its membership of national payment committees, and/or the Euro Cash Advisory Group), in consultation with industry stakeholders. As part of this follow-up work, a study on post-pandemic consumer attitudes towards payments in the euro area and a study on the societal costs and benefits of different payment instruments in the euro area (provided a minimum number of participants is guaranteed) would be welcome.

The ERPB welcomed the comprehensive analysis conducted by the working group and agreed to consider the follow-up actions raised by the working group in the next update of the ERPB workplan, taking into account existing fora/workstreams.



This post is also available in: Spanish