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Cash, made digital

Why we're looking into digital cash

Digital cash would give you more choice when making payments, and give everyone access to central bank money.

Have your say on digital cash

Take our online survey

The way New Zealanders pay for things is changing

We know that being able to use cash is still important for many New Zealanders. But we also know that the way people pay is changing, and our economy is becoming more digital. Digital payments make it easier and quicker to buy the things we want.

To keep up with the changing times, we're looking at the possibility of issuing digital cash.

Digital cash is in addition to physical cash

Digital cash would be issued by us. It would give New Zealanders the choice of using digital cash or using your regular bank accounts, cards, cash or however you make your payments. 

Digital cash isn’t a new concept. Every day, billions of New Zealand dollars issued and backed by us, already flows behind the scenes between commercial banks and other big institutions. This happens digitally on a super-resilient electronic platform we provide called the Exchange Settlement Account System.

 

Digital cash would be easy to access and use, and private

We want everyone to have access to digital cash, even if they don’t have a bank account.

Like banknotes, you could use digital cash when the power is out, or the internet is down. If you want, you’ll be able to use a physical card to access your digital cash and on devices like your phone or watch.  You could use digital cash to buy things in shops, online, or send money to friends and whānau instantly.

Like banknotes and coins, digital cash would work with current payment options, and you can switch between the two. It will also be private. We won't be able to see or control how you spend your money. 

 

You will have more choice when making payments

It would mean everyone has access to central bank money – either as physical cash or in digital form. Now, physical cash in banknotes and coins is the only type of central bank money available to everyone to pay for things. 

We want the certainty and safety of using digital cash to be available to all New Zealanders and businesses alongside physical cash. Digital cash design should also carefully meet or balance different considerations if it’s to work for everyone.

 

Digital cash would support innovation

New technologies and new forms of electronic money are always emerging.

These include:

Digital cash can take advantage of new innovative features like smart contracts. These allow you to automate a payment or do things like keeping totals of expenses. This gives you greater control over your money.

Digital cash could also boost competition in New Zealand’s payment landscape by supporting new types of money and payment services from the private sector.

New Zealanders will have the choice of who they use to access their digital cash services.

 

Trust in our money is essential

We, the Reserve Bank, would issue digital cash just like we issue banknotes and coins today, so you can trust that it'll be safe and secure. Other forms of digital money are issued by the private sector. They can involve risks, particularly if something goes wrong in New Zealand's financial system. 

Some other forms of digital money, like cryptoassets, are not denominated in New Zealand dollars. If a lot of people use them, it can pose a risk to our economy, the New Zealand dollar, and our monetary sovereignty. Monetary sovereignty is important because it means that New Zealand can:

  • independently manage its money
  • set interest rates
  • make decisions without being overly influenced by external forces. 

Digital cash will be government-backed and denominated in New Zealand dollars.

Digital cash will help us keep our monetary sovereignty so you can remain confident in our monetary system. 

 

We're not the only central bank looking at digital cash

Many other central banks around the world are exploring digital cash to support:

  • monetary and financial stability
  • social and financial inclusion
  • safe and efficient ways to pay with the decreased use and availability of cash.


International survey on central bank digital currencies | BIS.org

Tell us what you think 

We've developed some principles and design options for New Zealand’s digital cash, and we want you to tell us if we have got it right and what it would mean for you.

There are many details to work out before we can decide if digital cash is right for New Zealand, and we plan to consult again in the future on whether we should go ahead and issue digital cash. 

You can give your feedback by taking our survey, or uploading a written submission.

What stage are we at?

In 2021, we published an issues paper which explored the need for digital cash in Aoteaora New Zealand. We received over 6000 responses.

Read our consultation paper and a summary of responses

We're exploring high level design options for digital cash, and asking for your feedback on the proposed design features.

Once the consultation closes, we'll continue developing the design and policy requirements for digital cash. We expect to finish this in June 2025. After this, we'll draw up a cost and benefit analysis.

We expect Stage 2 to be finished in 2026. At the end of Stage 2, we'll recommend whether to move to Stage 3.

We'll develop prototypes to test how digital cash could work in the real world. During Stage 3, you'll have more opportunities to tell us what you think about digital cash.

We expect Stage 3 to be completed between 2028 and 2029.

We would introduce digital cash to Aotearoa New Zealand. We expect this to be around 2030.