Austrians fear the disappearance of their colorful cash and are seeking to make its use a constitutional right.

Austrians fear the disappearance of their colorful cash and are seeking to make its use a constitutional right.

Cash: Austria’s Love Affair with Physical Money


Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer took to social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter) last week to address growing concerns among the public regarding restrictions on cash payments. In a post, Nehammer emphasized the importance of cash in everyday life and pledged to protect it as a means of payment. To illustrate the significance of hard currency in Austria, he revealed that nearly €47 billion ($51 billion) is withdrawn from ATMs annually in the country, highlighting its popularity among the 9.1 million-strong population.

Das Taschengeld für das Kind. Die eiserne Reserve zu Hause. Das Geld im Börserl für alle Fälle. Allein in Österreich werden jedes Jahr 47 Milliarden Euro an Bankomaten behoben und im Schnitt trägt jeder Österreicher 102 Euro Bargeld bei sich. Bargeld spielt in unserem Alltag eine… – Karl Nehammer

Under Nehammer’s plan, the right to cash will be constitutionally protected, ensuring every individual’s freedom to choose their preferred method of payment. This move aims to secure the availability of cash, and the national bank will be required to maintain a sufficient supply of euros to meet the needs of Austrians. The implementation of this plan will be spearheaded by Finance Minister Magnus Brunner in the coming months.

The issue of protecting physical money has been a heated topic in Austria for several years, with the right-wing Freedom Party leading the charge in advocating for the preservation of hard currency. This political party enjoys significant popularity in Austria and vehemently opposes any constraints on cash, including proposals for a digital euro currency. In 2021, the country opposed a suggested limit on cash-based euro transactions put forward by the European Commission.

While credit cards and digital payment tools have gained traction across Europe and other parts of the world, Austria steadfastly embraces the use of cash. Cash represents freedom and independence in Austrian culture. According to a survey conducted by the OGM research institute earlier this year, approximately 54% of Austrians prefer to use cash for grocery purchases, while only 37% opt for cards. Nehammer further highlighted that 67% of transactions below €20 ($22) are conducted using cash.

Austria also boasts one of the highest densities of ATMs in Europe, with an average availability of one every 1.1 kilometers (0.7 miles), as reported by the country’s central bank. Commercial establishments, including restaurants, heavily rely on physical currency, and cash hoarding during times of crisis remains a common practice.

Although Nehammer’s move to constitutionally protect cash aligns with a long-standing policy of the Freedom Party, he faced criticism from the party’s leader, who accused him of appropriating ideas for political survival ahead of next year’s national election.

As of now, representatives from Nehammer’s office have not responded to ANBLE’s request for comment.

In conclusion, Austria’s love affair with physical money persists despite the rise of digital payment methods. The government, led by Chancellor Karl Nehammer, has taken steps to constitutionally protect cash and ensure its availability. The country’s attachment to hard currency is deeply rooted, as cash symbolizes freedom and autonomy for the Austrian population. While digital payments continue to grow globally, Austria remains steadfast in its commitment to preserving the use of cash as a preferred method of payment.