France to Shut Almost 40% of Cash-Handling Centers 

(Bloomberg) -- The Bank of France will shut down more than a third of its cash handling centers by the end of 2022 as the Covid-19 pandemic accelerates a decline in the use of notes and coins.

Operations will cease at 14 of the 37 centers that stock currency and replace damaged notes and coins. The central bank estimates the network would be 40% underused if it remained as expansive as it is now.

Lockdowns to curb virus infections have pushed more shoppers onto online platforms, while the raising of the ceiling for contactless payments has encouraged card use. There are also concerns over contagion via bank notes, although the central bank has denied there are risks.

That’s given extra impetus to the decline in cash usage, which already fell 20% between 2012 and 2019. The central bank expects a further 25% drop by 2022 from last year’s levels.

France, along with the Netherlands and Finland, is one of the euro-area countries where consumers have traditionally favored cards over cash, said Erick Lacourrege, managing director of cash, branches and services at the Bank of France. In contrast, Germany, Spain and Italy have been much slower to move away from notes and coins.

“There’s a generalized decline in the use of cash throughout the world,” Lacourrege said, but “the speed of decline isn’t the same in every country, and France is one place where it is falling the fastest in the euro area.”

The closures will impact 134 people at the Bank of France, he said. They’ll be offered early retirement packages, retraining for other jobs, or posts in cash centers that remain open.