That’s why Austria advertises cash as protection against crises


There are 9,000 ATMs in Austria, and the number has hardly changed in recent years.

(Photo: dpa)

Vienna Candles, matches, mineral water and “a significant amount of cash” should be kept at home, said the former head of the Austrian National Bank (OeNB), Ewald Nowotny, recently. That is reasonable, for example in the event of a blackout.

In Austria many people still depend on cash. Many shoppers still rummage around for their coins at the checkout in the grocery store, and outside of the capital, Vienna, you won’t get very far without cash. Payment cards are often not accepted in small shops and village restaurants.

Advertising doesn’t need the cash, one would think. But a campaign for this type of payment is currently running in Austria, which could make commercial providers of debit and credit cards, ie the “natural enemies” of cash, jealous.

Robert Holzmann, the governor of the OeNB and member of ECB-Rats, says they want to make society more aware of the issue of cash in the context of multiple crises. The “Euro-Cash 360 Degrees” platform, established at the end of September, serves this purpose.

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Austria sees itself as a state based on social partnership, and so very different groups are involved in the cash campaign: in addition to the OeNB the Austrian Mint, consumer advocates, employee representatives, the Senior Citizens Council and the Association of Municipalities. However, the arguments of the parties differ.

Advertising with emotions

The central bank recognizes the indispensability of cash, says OeNB Director Matthias Schroth matter-of-factly; the digital euro is merely complementary and therefore “a useful supplement”.

Central bank of Austria

The central bank recognizes the indispensability of cash, says OeNB director Matthias Schroth.

(Photo: Reuters)

Münze Österreich, a subsidiary of the OeNB, advertises with emotions. When paying in cash, one uses a regionally produced means of payment, is one of their slogans. It promotes Austria as a business location and thus secures jobs.

In specially produced commercials, the organization expresses concerns that are rightly plaguing many card users: the data that consumers leave behind when they pay electronically is “extremely” valuable for companies, they say.

Therefore, to prevent this information from being used for undesirable purposes, one should always pay in cash. Only cash is true, according to a spot borrowed from James Bond films.

financial sector dilemma

This pro-cash counterattack also reflects a dilemma in the financial sector. From a stability point of view, it seems sensible not to rely on just one single means of payment.

At the same time, banks are under pressure to increase their profitability. They can only do this if as many transactions as possible are processed digitally: This increases efficiency and the cards generate high fees.

Nevertheless, the financial institutions have apparently not yet dared to thin out the ATM network. There are 9,000 of these machines in Austria, and the number has hardly changed in recent years.

In any case, the initiators of the new platform hit a nerve. A few days ago, the referendum “For unrestricted cash payments” was also submitted.

>> Read here: Germany is driving the digital euro

It was started by a Viennese master carpenter and around 531,000 people signed it. Because the referendum easily passed the threshold of 100,000 signatures, Parliament will now have to deliberate on whether the request should be included in the constitution.

More: Why important examiners recommend a cash limit in Germany

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