Covid-19, cash, and the future of payments

BIS Bulletin  |  No 3  | 
03 April 2020

Key takeaways

  • The Covid-19 pandemic has fanned public concerns that the coronavirus could be transmitted by cash.
  • Scientific evidence suggests that the probability of transmission via banknotes is low when compared
    with other frequently-touched objects, such as credit card terminals or PIN pads.
  • To bolster trust in cash, central banks are actively communicating, urging continued acceptance of cash
    and, in some instances, sterilising or quarantining banknotes. Some encourage contactless payments.
  • Looking ahead, developments could speed up the shift toward digital payments. This could open a divide
    in access to payments instruments, which could negatively impact unbanked and older consumers. The
    pandemic may amplify calls to defend the role of cash - but also calls for central bank digital currencies.