Survey of electronic money developments

CPMI Papers No 48
November 2001


Electronic money projected to take over from physical cash for most if not all small-value payments continues to evoke considerable interest both among the public and the various authorities concerned, including central banks. The electronic money developments raise policy issues for central banks as regards the possible implications for central banks' revenues, their implementation of monetary policy and their payment system oversight role. In view of these potential policy concerns, in 1996 the G10 central bank Governors announced their intention to closely monitor the evolution of electronic money schemes and products and, while respecting competition and innovation, to take any appropriate action if necessary. The Governors asked the BIS to monitor the developments of these new products on a regular and, as far as possible, global basis.

Since 1996, the BIS in cooperation with the Committee on Payment and Settlement Systems (CPSS) and with the support of the CPSS Secretariat, has been regularly surveying electronic money developments around the globe with the help of central banks worldwide. The surveys were initially conducted twice a year and were confidential, with information being shared only with the participating central banks. However, in view of the widespread public interest in this innovative means of payment the CPSS decided to make the contents of the survey publicly available after obtaining the consent of the participating central banks. The first such Survey on electronic money developments was published by the BIS in May 2000. This year's report too is being made available to the public.

For this year's survey, the number of participating central banks was expanded. In all, 82 countries from around the world responded. The information in the survey relates to late 2000 or early 2001. An Introductory chapter has been included in this year's report which provides the readers with information on the policy stance adopted by the various authorities concerned, including central banks. Electronic money products are defined here as stored value or prepaid products in which a record of the funds or value available to the consumer is stored on a device in the consumer's possession. This definition includes both prepaid cards (sometimes called electronic purses) and prepaid software products that use computer networks such as the internet (sometimes called digital cash). These products differ from so-called access products that allow consumers to use electronic means of communication to access otherwise conventional payment services (for example, use of the internet to make a credit card payment or for general "online banking").

The CPSS Secretariat would like to thank all the institutions that have participated in the survey and agreed to make information available for this report. The Secretariat welcomes comments on the content or the format of the survey (e-mail:, subject line: "e-money", fax:+41 61 280 9100).

A number of publications relating to electronic money have already been published under the auspices of the BIS. These include Security of Electronic Money (a joint publication by the CPSS and the Group of Computer Experts, August 1996), Implications for Central Banks of the Development of Electronic Money (BIS, October 1996) and Risk Management for Electronic Banking and Electronic Money Activities (Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, March 1998). We hope that this survey of electronic money developments will provide a useful addition to this list.

Gregor Heinrich, Head of Secretariat Gynedi Srinivas, Member of Secretariat
Committee on Payment and Settlement Systems Committee on Payment and Settlement Systems