A number of questions can arise when considering the implications of a cashless society. This note considers whether cash is necessary for a uniform currency.
Staff analytical notes
Cashless or tellerless bank branches have proliferated in several countries in recent years. In a cashless bank branch, teller or counter services such as cash withdrawals, deposits and cheque-cashing are not available.
There was an unusually large decline of bank notes in circulation in October 2018. Some have argued that this was due to the legalization of cannabis in Canada in mid-October.
Staff discussion papers
We discuss the payment habits of Canadians both in the current payment environment and in a hypothetical cashless environment.
We provide an analysis of cash trends in Canada before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. We also consider the potential two scenarios for issuance of a central bank digital currency in Canada: the emergence of a cashless society or the widespread use of an alternative digital currency in Canada. Finally, we discuss the Canadian experience in maintaining cash as an efficient and accessible method of payment and store of value.
Chen et al. (2021) show that almost one-third of First Nations band offices in Canada are within 1 kilometre (km) of an automated banking machine (ABM) or financial institution (FI) branch and more than half are within 5 km.
Using data from the Bank Note Distribution System and consumer surveys, we find that bank notes in circulation remained high through 2021. Canadians continued to rely on electronic methods of payment, but a significant share also continued using cash for payments.
The COVID-19 pandemic significantly increased the demand for cash. Cash in circulation increased sharply from March through December 2020, particularly in the early months of this period. Although use of electronic methods of payment also increased significantly, cash use for payments remains high for low-value transactions and among certain demographic groups.
Adequate cash distribution is one the Bank of Canada’s core interests. Canadians’ ability to access cash influences the Bank’s thinking on issuing a central bank digital currency. We provide a perspective on these issues by exploring access of First Nations reserves to cash.
Using Bank Note Distribution System data on the demand for cash up to September 2020, we find that demand was strong. This is true even though cash use for payments declined early in the pandemic. When mobility restrictions and lockdown measures were eased, cash use for payments increased sharply but remained less popular than electronic methods of payment.
Consumer spending declined significantly during the recent COVID-19 pandemic. This negative shock likely reduced spending across all methods of payment (cash, debit, credit, etc.). The mix of payment methods consumers use could also be affected. We study how the pandemic has influenced the demand for and use of cash. We also offer insights into the use of other payment methods, such as debit and credit cards.
Cash use for payments has been steadily decreasing in many countries, including Canada and Sweden. This might suggest an evolution toward a cashless society. But in Canada, cash in circulation relative to GDP has been stable for decades and has even increased in recent years. By contrast, the cash-to-GDP ratio in Sweden has been falling steadily. What has caused this difference? Are there lessons to be learned from comparing the Canadian and Swedish experiences?
The use of bank notes in Canada for payments has declined consistently for some time, and similar trends are evident in other countries. This has led some observers to predict a cashless society in the future.
Staff working papers
We report on the dynamics of Bitcoin awareness and ownership from 2016 to 2021, using the Bank of Canada's Bitcoin Omnibus Surveys (BTCOS). Our analysis also helps understand Bitcoin owners who adopted during the COVID-19 and how they differ from long-term owners.
The authors compare the efficiency of Canada's largest banks with U.S. commercial banks over the past 20 years. Efficiency is measured in three ways.
An important challenge facing central banks is making decisions under uncertainty about the dynamic effects of monetary policy actions. The authors stress the importance of explicitly recognizing uncertainty about the transmission mechanism when formulating policy advice. They argue that one way to manage monetary policy under uncertainty is to draw on both an output-gap paradigm […]
A central bank's main concern is the general direction of future inflation, and not transitory fluctuations of the inflation rate. As a result, this paper is concerned with forecasting a simple measure of the trend of inflation, the eight-quarter CPI-inflation rate. The primary objective is to improve the M1-based vector-error-correction model (VECM) developed by Hendry […]
A vector error-correction model (VECM) that forecasts inflation between the current quarter and eight quarters ahead is found to provide significant leading information about inflation. The model focusses on the effects of deviations of M1 from its long-run demand but also includes, among other things, the influence of the exchange rate, a simple measure of the output gap and past prices.
The authors examine the Bank of Canada's overnight rate as a measure of monetary policy in vector autoregression (VAR) models. Since the time series of the Bank's current measure of the overnight rate begins only in 1971, the authors splice it to day loan rate observations to obtain a sufficiently long period of data.
Bank of Canada Review articles
September 11, 2009 In response to the financial crisis of 2007-09, the Bank of Canada intervened repeatedly to stabilize the financial system and limit the repercussions of the crisis on the Canadian economy. This article reviews the extraordinary liquidity measures taken by the Bank during this period and the principles that guided the Bank's interventions. A preliminary assessment of the term liquidity facilities provided by the Bank suggests that they were an important source of liquidity support for some financial institutions and, on a broader basis, served to reduce uncertainty among market participants about the availability of liquidity, as well as helping to promote a return to well-functioning money markets.
June 14, 2007 Allen and Engert report on recent research at the Bank of Canada on various aspects of efficiency in the Canadian banking industry. This research suggests that, overall, Canadian banks appear to be relatively efficient producers of financial services and they do not exercise monopoly or collusive-oligopoly power. The authors note the value of continuing to investigate opportunities to improve efficiency and competition in financial services in Canada.
April 13, 2007 Given the Bank of Canada's strong interest in the safe and efficient operation of major clearing and settlement systems, the Bank maintains a rigorous research agenda as a means of informing payments system policy and oversight. In this article, Arjani and Engert review recent research undertaken by Bank staff concerning the risk and efficiency of the Large Value Transfer System (LVTS). Based on the findings from this research, the authors conclude that the design of the LVTS strikes an effective balance between risk and efficiency. The article also demonstrates the increased use of simulation analysis as a tool for conducting payments system research. A brief summary of the Bank's oversight strategy for systemically important payments systems is also provided. Goals for future research are noted as well, including modelling of participant behaviour and continued external collaboration with other researchers.
December 25, 2004 As the ultimate provider of Canadian-dollar liquidity to the financial system, the Bank of Canada has the unique capacity to create Canadian-dollar claims on the central bank and the power to make secured loans or advances to chartered banks and other members of the Canadian Payments Association. The Bank supplies overnight credit on a routine basis through the Standing Liquidity Facility (SLF) to direct participants in the Large Value Transfer System, and Emergency Lending Assistance (ELA) to solvent deposit-taking institutions that require more substantial and prolonged credit. The authors review the policy framework that guides the Bank's lender-of-last-resort function, including the key issues, terms and conditions, and eligibility criteria associated with its SLF and ELA activities. Also discussed are foreign currency ELA, the relationship between SLF and ELA, systemic risk and Bank of Canada intervention, and the potential provision of liquidity to major clearing and settlement systems.
August 23, 2003 Freedman and Engert focus on the changing pattern of lending and borrowing in Canada in the past thirty to forty years, including the types of financial instruments used and the relative roles of financial institutions and financial markets. They examine how borrowing mechanisms have changed over time and consider the challenges facing the Canadian financial sector, including whether our financial markets are in danger of disappearing because of the size and pre-eminence of U.S. financial markets. Some of the trends examined here include syndicated lending, securitization, and credit derivatives, a form of financial engineering that has become increasingly important in the last few years. They also study bond and equity markets to determine whether Canadian capital markets have been hollowed out or abandoned by Canadian firms and conclude that the data do not provide much support for that view.
November 14, 2000 This article summarizes the proceedings of a conference hosted by the Bank of Canada in November 1999. Three major themes emerged at the conference. The first concerned uncertainty about the transmission mechanism by which monetary policy affects output and inflation. The second concerned the potential usefulness of monetary aggregates in guiding the economy along a stable non-inflationary growth path. The third was the recent developments in dynamic monetary general-equilibrium models. The work presented suggests that a wide range of models is useful for understanding the various paths by which monetary policy actions might influence the economy.
May 11, 1996 In 1995, the broad aggregate M2+ grew at an annual rate of 4.5 per cent—almost twice the rate recorded in 1994—as competition from mutual funds drew less money from personal savings deposits. An adjusted M2+ aggregate, which internalizes the effect of close substitutes such as CSBs and certain mutual funds, grew by only 3.4 per cent. Gross M1 grew by 8.2 per cent during the year, reflecting an increased demand for transactions balances as market interest rates declined and as banks offered more attractive rates of interest on corporate current account balances. The robust growth of gross M1 in the second half of 1995 suggests a moderate expansion of economic activity in the first half of 1996, while moderate growth in the broad aggregates indicates a rate of monetary expansion consistent with continued low inflation. In this annual review of the monetary aggregates, the authors also introduce a new model, based on calculated deviations of M1 from its long-run demand, which suggests that inflation should remain just below the midpoint of the inflation-control target range over the next couple of years.
Financial System Hub articles
October 12, 2022 We present key findings from the 2021 Bitcoin Omnibus Survey on Canadians’ awareness and ownership of Bitcoin. Most Canadians have heard of Bitcoin, which remains primarily used as an investment. Ownership jumped in 2021, reflecting increased savings during the pandemic and greater availability of user-friendly platforms to buy Bitcoin.
Financial System Review articles
February 1, 2012
December 9, 2010
June 21, 2009
June 21, 2008 In this article, we consider central bank intervention to address financial market turmoil with a focus on the questions of why, when, and how a central bank might intervene. We set out a policy framework and identify appropriate central bank instruments to respond to extraordinary financial market turmoil, consistent with central bank policy goals and functions.
December 21, 2006
June 21, 2006 This article sets out the Bank’s mandate for regulatory oversight of clearing and settlement systems, the strategy that is followed, and the key activities relevant to the conduct of oversight.
June 23, 2005