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Cash & Covid-19

Accepting cash is still important

Businesses should keep allowing people to use cash during the Covid-19 crisis to ensure the most vulnerable are able to buy the goods and services they need.

Cash is still used as the predominant payment method for many people, especially the elderly and low-income households. Possible moves by businesses to only accept card payments could severely impact those who need assistance the most at this time.

Recent studies showed 2.7 million consumers relied almost entirely on cash for their day-to-day expenditure, with cash particularly important to those aged over 54, who Age UK have found struggle more to adapt to new technologies. There are also 1.3 million adults (three per cent of the population) who do not have a bank account, meaning they rely almost entirely on cash as their only payment method.

Covid-19, cash, and the future of payments

BIS Bulletin | No 3 | 03 April 2020
Key takeaways

Raphael Auer, Giulio Cornelli and Jon Frost

The Covid-19 pandemic has fanned public concerns that the coronavirus could be transmitted by cash.

Scientific evidence suggests that the probability of transmission via banknotes is low when compared with other frequently-touched objects, such as credit card terminals or PIN pads.

To bolster trust in cash, central banks are actively communicating, urging continued acceptance of cash and, in some instances, sterilising or quarantining banknotes. Some encourage contactless payments.

Looking ahead, developments could speed up the shift toward digital payments. This could open a divide in access to payments instruments, which could negatively impact unbanked and older consumers. The pandemic may amplify calls to defend the role of cash – but also calls for central bank digital currencies.

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