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The Eurosystem cash strategy

Banknotes are part of our economy, our identity and our culture – and we at the ECB have an immense responsibility to ensure that people maintain their trust in them.

Christine Lagarde, President of the ECB

Cash is an important part of your freedom to choose how to pay and essential for the financial inclusion of all groups in society. Our cash strategy aims to ensure that cash remains widely available and accepted as both a means of payment and a store of value.

Euro banknotes and coins are legal tender in the euro area, and cash is the only form of public money to which everyone can have direct access. The ECB and the national central banks – also known as the Eurosystem – have a fundamental responsibility, together with the banking sector, to ensure the smooth supply of cash and facilitate the use of cash in payments by people and businesses.

We are safeguarding the future of cash in several ways.

We ensure the availability of euro cash

We work to ensure that euro banknotes and coins are available to the public at all times. The national central banks offer free-of-charge cash services throughout their countries and they also work to make the cash cycle as cost efficient as possible. We also take into account the needs of international markets since between 30% and 50% of euro banknotes circulate outside the euro area. And if a digital euro euro were to be issued in future, it would exist alongside cash.

We support access to cash services for everyone

We want people and businesses to have access to their money, whatever their preferences and payment needs. For this to happen, banks need to provide adequate cash services, including cash withdrawals that are free or incur only a reasonable fee. We also support retailers that provide complementary cash services such as “cash back” or facilitate limited cash withdrawals and deposits. We help banks to deal with sudden surges in demand for banknotes and make sure that cash can be used as a fall-back means of payment in case electronic payments are temporarily unavailable.

We make sure that cash is accepted everywhere

Most people in the euro area still prefer to use cash for retail payments. Ensuring that cash is accepted everywhere is therefore a vital part of the payment system and is also in line with its status as legal tender. It allows consumers the freedom to choose how to pay and means that people who do not have access to electronic payments are not disadvantaged. Retailers, traders and other private businesses cannot refuse cash payments, unless the two parties have previously agreed on other means of payment. Generally, public authorities and service providers must also accept cash, unless otherwise stipulated by law.

We develop innovative and secure euro banknotes

Euro banknotes are protected by the latest and most effective technologies to make them highly resistant to counterfeiting and easy to authenticate. We ensure the authenticity and high quality of euro banknotes in circulation and enforce strict standards for how banks and professional cash handlers check and authenticate them. The European Commission’s PERICLES programme is also encouraging the development of security features for potential future upgrades of the current euro coin denominations. Last but not least, we aim for the design of euro banknotes to be one that Europeans can identify with.

We keep banknotes safe and sustainable

We make sure that banknotes are safe to use by researching the potential impact of euro banknote production and circulation on public health and carrying out scientific examination and testing. We also look at the environmental footprint of banknotes to identify opportunities to reduce their environmental impact via new products and processes. This ensures that euro banknotes and their production processes become as sustainable, green and environmentally friendly as possible.

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