Central Bank calls for cash to be safeguarded in national payments plan

Policy should ensure reductions in cash infrastructure by private sector ‘do not outpace society’s needs’, says regulator’s deputy governor

The Central Bank has called for cash to be safeguarded as a means of payment in the next national payments strategy.

In response to the public consultation on the Department of Finance’s payments strategy, the banking regulator has outlined its key priorities out to the end of 2030.

One of these priorities is that cash “should remain widely available and accepted as a means of payment”, and that the choice should be safeguarded for consumers and businesses.

Speaking at the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland National Payments Conference, central bank deputy governor Vasileios Madouros said that cash will remain a “core element of the payments ecosystem” in Ireland and internationally.


“While the use of cash in Ireland has been declining, it is very clear that there is a continued societal and economic demand by households and businesses to be able to use cash as a means of payment,” he said, adding that the central bank welcomes the proposed legislative framework on access to cash.

“This is an important public policy intervention, providing a mechanism for ensuring that any future reductions in the cash infrastructure provided by the private sector do not outpace society’s needs,” he said.

However, Mr Madouros said that as people’s preferences for different payment forms continue to evolve, it would “not necessarily be optimal” for current cash infrastructure to “remain static forever”.

“We need to develop an approach for evaluating the societal costs and benefits of a given level of cash infrastructure, in light of changes in underlying societal preferences,” he said.

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Among other priorities outlined by the regulator was the need for providers to ensure that Irish consumers and small businesses benefit from payment innovations that exist elsewhere in Europe.

Mr Madouros highlighted that since the last National Payments Plan published by the Department of Finance more than a decade ago, “there has been remarkable change and innovation in domestic payments”.

These include a move towards contactless card payments and mobile wallet payments, as well as digital banks entering the Irish market offering mobile payment solutions.

However, he said Ireland’s payments landscape is still “lagging” other countries, noting that despite the instant payments infrastructure being available since 2017, material providers of payment accounts in Ireland have not implemented it.

“For consumers and businesses, this is an unsatisfactory outcome,” he said.

The central bank also recommended that issuers, operators, participants, and enabling network providers should engage collectively to ensure the security and resilience of the payments ecosystem.

The regulator’s final priority was that national public authorities, industry associations, and research bodies should engage in research and analysis to better inform policy decisions on payments.

Ellen O'Regan

Ellen O’Regan

Ellen O’Regan is an Irish Times journalist.