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Access to and acceptance of cash

Cash continues to play an important role in society and is indispensable to any economy. Our studies show that most euro area citizens consider it important to be able to pay in cash, and that cash is the most frequently used payment method at the point of sale in the euro area.

The ECB and the national central banks of the euro area are committed to making sure that cash remains widely available and accepted. We therefore welcome the European Commission’s proposal for a new EU Regulation to strengthen the legal tender status of euro cash. The proposal aims to ensure that access to and acceptance of euro banknotes and coins is legally guaranteed throughout the euro area. 

Access to cash 

Ensuring easy and convenient access to cash will protect its role as legal tender and guarantee its continued use as an everyday payment method. People’s choice of how to pay may be influenced by how easily they can withdraw money from their bank accounts.

Euro area countries are individually responsible for ensuring people and businesses have sufficient and effective access to cash nationwide, including in urban and rural areas.

The role of the Eurosystem

Cash issued by national central banks is distributed to commercial banks to enable them to meet the cash needs of their customers. The ECB and the national central banks analyse the level of cash services throughout the euro area with a view to identifying possible deficiencies in cash access. For example, we have developed a common methodology to analyse euro area citizens’ access to cash services like ATMs and bank branches. If needed, euro area countries may implement laws requiring commercial banks and other institutions to ensure sufficient and effective access to cash.

The Eurosystem has also established rules for commercial banks allowing them to recirculate banknotes efficiently and contain cash handling costs. The national central banks also keep sufficient cash reserves to accommodate any sudden and unforeseeable surges in banknote demand, for example in the event of a crisis or a temporary electronic payments outage.

We ensure that the continuous demand for euro banknotes is covered. There are around 120,000 branches of credit institutions and over 260,000 ATMs in the euro area, allowing people to access their money in an efficient and effective manner. 

Additional ways of obtaining cash

ATMs and bank branches are the main means of withdrawing cash. In addition, in some euro area countries, retail stores may allow their customers to withdraw limited amounts of cash.


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Also referred to as “cash advances”. You can ask at the checkout to have the amount you wish to withdraw added to your total, then pay with your debit card or mobile device and receive the requested amount in cash.


You can withdraw cash in-store from your account, without having to buy anything.

Want to know more?

Watch this video to see how cashback and cash-in-shop services work in practice.

Acceptance of cash

Euro banknotes and coins are legal tender in the euro area. This means that shops and businesses cannot refuse cash payments unless both parties have previously agreed on another means of payment. Generally, public authorities and service providers must also accept cash, unless otherwise stipulated by law.

The European Commission has proposed a Regulation that would clarify the legal tender status of euro banknotes and coins in EU law. The proposal also defines the few cases where cash payments may be refused, for example if the business does not have sufficient change, or if both parties have agreed on a different means of payment.

The ECB welcomes the Commission’s proposal for a Regulation in the euro area and, in an opinion, expresses its concerns that the legal tender status of euro area cash could be undermined if there is a rise in retailers refusing to accept cash payments. The Eurosystem analyses the level of cash acceptance in the euro area and alerts the competent authorities and bodies about any possible issues. 

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