Part of a move towards a more cashless economy, France would join Belgium, Finland and Ireland as euro-zone countries if it opted to no longer use the smallest coins... aided by the fact that it costs four centimes to make a one centime coin.
A committee looking at possible savings said encouraging people to use less cash would simplify payments and help fight fraud – and it suggested that cash, cheques and fiscal stamps should be banned for payment of tax bills in two years’ time.
Elected and ministry representatives, unions and trade body delegates make up the committee but the government does not have to follow its recommendations.
Governments have long eyed a move to a cashless society but there have been few real changes. This is partly for cultural reasons as many see paying with liquide as a sign of good faith while also giving some ‘liberty’ in tax declarations.
‘Electronic wallets’ linked to bank cards, such as Crédit Agricole’s Moneo, failed but the rise of new ‘fintech’ financial technology companies has seen a growth in smartphone apps to manage bank accounts, organise common pots to buy presents, split and pay bills in restaurants or borrow and lend money via crowdfunding.
Paris firm PayinTech makes electronic bracelets and badges used to pay for tickets, food and drink at festivals or campsites. Its co-founder Bertrand Sylvestre-Boncheval said: “We find sales go up by around 20%. It is above all the ease of payment which makes a difference.
“If you can serve 3,000 people at half time in a football match you sell more than if you only serve 2,700.”
A “casino effect” sees customers spend more than normal, just as gamblers spend more with chips than if using cash, and the ease of use allows people to buy straight away, rather than having to fetch a card.
He said Moneo was too complicated: “Users have to feel they are getting benefit.”
Frantz Waze, financial director of so-called neo-bank Ditto Bank in Paris, says people are now more accepting of cashless technology, especially if it is useful to them.
Ditto’s smartphone-based multi- currency accounts manage, transfer or complete foreign exchange transactions, while its card gives local currencies from the accounts, avoiding commissions.
“People see it is useful, that it is safe, and switch because of that,” said Mr Waze.
As for a wider cashless society, he said the technology exists for it to be introduced tomorrow. “Governments like it, banks like it, but people in different countries have different relations to cash, and like the feel of it.
“French people use bank cards a lot, but still like cash and how quickly they will change is the million dollar question.
“Germany is even more cash driven: you cannot buy a beer in a beer garden with a card for instance.”
A 2016 survey by Banque de France and other European banks showed 68% of transactions in French shops were in cash, mainly for small sums.
This compares with 80% in Germany, Austria and Slovenia. By contrast physical cash was least used in the Netherlands, Estonia and Finland, making up 33% of transactions.