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Why is Switzerland making cash a constitutional right?

The Local Switzerland
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Why is Switzerland making cash a constitutional right?
A man holding a supermarket bag bearing the Swiss cross walks across a square in Lausanne. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP)

Despite being a progressive country in many ways, Switzerland is still a big fan of paying with cash. Now the government wants to make coins and notes a constitutional right.


If you live in Switzerland, you're probably used to carrying cash around with you. 

That's because, although card payments are much more widely accepted and common compared to previous years, people do still enjoy using cash to pay (and some smaller businesses still demand it). 

Now the Swiss government is taking things a step further. 

The Federal Council announced this week that it was opening a consultation on a draft law on the "preservation of cash" in Switzerland.

It follows an initiative by the Swiss Movement for Freedom (MSL), which called for the supply of coins and banknotes to be guaranteed, and for any project to replace the Swiss franc by another currency to be subject to referendum vote by the population. 

The government said it had rejected this initiative because the wording in the proposal wasn't clear enough. 

Instead, it launched a counter-proposal which would make it "possible to incorporate both concerns by means of precise legal regulations".

READ ALSO: Why do the Swiss love coins and banknotes so much?

The Federal Council said that it “recognises the importance of the role played by cash for the economy and society”, adding that both the supply of cash and the use of the Swiss franc as national currency are currently guaranteed under the law.

Therefore, the government “is prepared to reinforce the importance of these principles stated at the legal level by enshrining them in the Constitution”.

The consultation period will last until November 30th.

Swiss francs.

Swiss francs. Photo: Pixbabay

Is cash really that important to Switzerland?

According to a survey on payment methods in Switzerland conducted in 2022, cash and debit cards are the two most widely used payment forms in Switzerland. 

A huge 96 percent of respondents to the survey said they keep cash in their wallets or at home to cover everyday expenses. 

Meanwhile, cash is used by the population in 36 percent of transactions, making it one of the most used methods for day-to-day payments.

Yet there has been a decline in the use of banknotes and coins. 


In 2020, the share of transactions with cash stood at 43 percent, while in 2017 it was 70 percent.

People are using payment cards, particularly contactless, more often as well as mobile payment apps. 

Meanwhile the Swiss Movement for Freedom has launched a second initiative on the subject, which aims to ensure that people can continue to pay in coins or banknotes when it comes to public services, such as on transport, shops or public toilets. 

Under the banner "whoever wants to pay with cash must be able to pay with cash", the movement said it is concerned about society moving in a digital direction and cash payment being phased out.

Does cash really need to be enshrined in the constitution?


There is no right or wrong answer, but Switzerland obviously feels cash is super important to society.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Austria has launched a similar plan. 

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, of the conservative Austrian People's Party (ÖVP), announced in July that he wants to go forward with a plan to make cash a constitutional right.

“We understand that cash is a very important theme to people,” Nehammer said. “It’s important to me that cash use is constitutionally guaranteed.”

READ ALSO: Why is Austria so set on making cash payments a constitutional right?


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