Swedish banks urged to protect access to cash despite increase in digital payments

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Notes of Swedish crowns in various denominations can be seen in this illustrative photo taken in Stockholm, Sweden on February 2, 2011. REUTERS / Bob Strong / File Photo

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Swedish banks must ensure that savers have access to cash withdrawal and deposit facilities despite a dramatic drop in the number of people using coins and banknotes, a government-appointed committee said on Monday.

Many Swedes have stopped using cash altogether, relying on digital services like Swish and iZettle to buy and sell items and send money to each other.

But the central bank has been among those who have warned that putting payment systems in the hands of commercial operators could lead to problems in times of economic uncertainty and that certain groups – such as retirees – still rely on cash.

“We cannot let private actors get rid of cash,” a government-appointed committee said in a signed article in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

He said the six largest Swedish banks should ensure that all Swedes have access to cash and the ability to deposit notes and coins without having to travel more than 25 km.

It would cost the six lenders SEK 8 to 15 million, he said.

The committee, which is also reviewing the central bank’s mandate, said parliament must decide how the growing digitization of the payments market should play out and the role of cash in the longer term.

Sweden is at the forefront of digital currency and many shops, restaurants and even bank branches refuse to accept cash. Over the past 10 years, cash in circulation has halved from 112 billion to around 50 billion Swedish kronor ($ 5.75 billion).

The central bank plans to introduce a digital currency so that it can retain its role in the payment system.

Reporting by Johan Sennero; edited by Simon Johnson and Jason Neely


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