Farewell to copper money – belgium dares the experiment

Farewell to copper money - belgium dares the experiment

At some german supermarket checkouts, it’s already being done: rounded off. Instead of having change paid out in cents, customers can have it rounded off and use it to make a donation of a very small amount.

Belgium has made the procedure a law: since the beginning of december, businesses have had to round change up or down to five cents. However, customers will also be able to pay with the mini coins in the future. Is this also an option for germany?

Belgian retail traders at least draw a positive interim balance sheet. Almost a month after the reform, the retail association speaks of a successful start. "There are few problems overall," a spokeswoman said. Only a few customers had complained or asked whether winnings from sports betting or card payments were now also rounded off.

According to the association, the reform saved merchants money. Because procuring rolls of coins with 1 and 2 cent pieces often costs more than the coins are worth.

For the federal government, however, a change reform is out of the question. "There are currently no plans to introduce a rounding rule in the federal republic of germany like the one in belgium," said a finance ministry spokesman. In justification, the authority referred to a 2018 report by the EU commission. After that, 1- and 2-cent pieces enjoyed a high level of acceptance among the population.

Individual coins could only be completely abolished in the entire euro zone anyway, according to the ministry of finance. The stagnation of the money is fixed. "The eight coins, 1 cent to 2 euros, are the same legal tender in all euro member states."European law, however, has nothing against rounding regulations in national cash transactions: besides belgium, such a regulation exists in the netherlands, among other countries.

Mini coins are also sometimes dispensed with in germany. Since november, the north sea island of wangerooge no longer receives 1 to 5 cent stamps from volksbank jever. Transport costs are too high, says a spokesman. Most of the time, the munzen were brought by airplane, since the traffic depends on the ebb and flow of the tide.

Giving up small change has had no negative consequences so far, wangeroog mayor marcel fangohr told the german press agency. The retailers only had to worry about supplies themselves. "We’ll have to see how it goes for christmas and new year when the island is full," fangohr said. Other german islands had not joined the model.

For germans, paying in cash has a high priority. But the love of cash is brittle. Three out of four purchases made by germans at the checkout are still paid for in cash (74 percent), according to the latest survey conducted by the bundesbank in 2017. Three years earlier, it was still almost 80 percent. "Nevertheless, it remains true that cash (…) the most frequently used means of payment (…) in germany," according to the report on the survey.

The belgian retail association, on the other hand, would have liked to go one step further. It must be possible to withdraw a large proportion of the smallest coins from circulation, said the spokeswoman. Even if an amount is rounded to 9.05 euros at the cash register, the customer can currently pay 9.06 euros with three 2-cent pieces. So for change, belgian traders still have to keep a supply of 1-cent coins on hand.