Euro banknotes and coins are the only legal tender in the euro area, and cash is the only form of public money that is directly accessible to all citizens, thereby ensuring autonomy, privacy and social inclusion. The ECB and the national central banks – also known as the Eurosystem – have a fundamental responsibility to ensure the smooth supply of cash and facilitate the use of cash in payments by citizens and businesses. We are safeguarding the future of cash in several ways.
“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
We ensure the availability of euro cash
The Eurosystem ensures that euro banknotes and coins are available to the public at all times. All national central banks offer free-of-charge cash services throughout their countries, while working to make the cash cycle as cost efficient as possible. We also consider the needs of international markets since a large share of euro banknotes circulate outside the euro area. Even if a digital euro were to be issued in future, it would exist alongside cash.
We support access to cash services for everyone
The Eurosystem wants citizens and businesses to have access to their own money, whatever their preferences and payment needs. Credit institutions therefore have a social responsibility to provide cash services to citizens and businesses, including cash withdrawals that are free or incur only a reasonable fee. We also support retailers providing complementary cash services such as “cash back” or facilitating limited cash withdrawals and deposits. Finally, we support the banking sector in dealing with sudden surges in demand for banknotes and make sure that cash can function as a fall-back payment instrument in case electronic payments are temporarily unavailable.
We make sure that cash is accepted everywhere
Cash is still the main way people make retail payments in the euro area and the Eurosystem considers the universal acceptance of cash to be a vital part of the payment system and the legal tender status of euro cash; it ensures that consumers are free to choose how to pay. The acceptance of cash also means that people who do not have access to electronic payment services are not disadvantaged. Public service providers, traders and other businesses cannot refuse cash payments, unless explicitly required by law or where all parties have previously agreed on other means of payment.
We develop innovative and secure euro banknotes
The Eurosystem develops secure banknotes that 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 the checking and authentication of banknotes by banks and professional cash handlers. 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 ensure that the design of euro banknotes is one that Europeans can identify with.
We keep banknotes safe and sustainable
The Eurosystem makes 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.