As cash machines gradually disappear from the streetscape, the organisation representing supermarkets and mini-markets has suggested installing the machines in stores.
The Covid-19 crisis has led most people to switch to retail payments using back cards, even for small amounts that would previously have been paid by cash. For health reasons, in addition, contactless payments have become hugely popular, and now even the rattiest night-shop has a Bancontact terminal.
Nonetheless, some establishments still require cash (especially bars and restaurants when they were open) while other impose a minimum spend for the card to be used.
But where is the cash to come from on these occasions?
In the last couple of years there has been an epidemic of thefts by ATM-cracking: thieves use brute force or explosives to blow the machine wide open and take the cash inside. In some cases, they simply use a digger to pull the machine out and make off with the whole thing, cash and all.
That has led banks to reduce the number of stand-alone machines, meaning the ones not attached to an agency, as being too vulnerable. And even those with walk-in access are slowly disappearing.
Access to cash is becoming less and less simple, though demand still exists, particular among those less comfortable with digital banking.
This week two CD&V members of parliament presented a proposal that would oblige each municipality in the country to provide at least one cash machine – a reasonable idea for smaller rural communes, but not much comfort to people in Antwerp or Brussels-City.
And so it comes down to Buurtsuper, the organisation representing mainly small local supermarkets, to offer a solution.
The organisation is asking the government to review an old law on money transports which led to some private initiatives, where supermarket owners had placed cash machines on their own initiative, to get rid of them.
The idea, Buurtsuper suggests, would make cash easily available to local people, especially those with limited mobility. Shops are often open until 20.00, which should cover most needs. And there would be advantages for the shopkeeper.
“As a result, the manager no longer has to bring the cash to the nearest bank personally,” the organisation said in a press release.