Jump to content

Central bank digital currency

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A central bank digital currency (CBDC; also called digital fiat currency[1] or digital base money[2]) is a digital currency issued by a central bank,[3] rather than by a commercial bank. It is also a liability of the central bank and denominated in the sovereign currency, as is the case with physical banknotes and coins.

A sign on the Hangzhou Metro advertising acceptance of the Digital Renminbi
A sign on the Hangzhou Metro advertising acceptance of the digital renminbi, the first CBDC adopted by a major economy (China)

The two primary categories of CBDCs are retail and wholesale.[4] Retail CBDCs are designed for households and businesses to make payments for everyday transactions, whereas wholesale CBDCs are designed for financial institutions and operate similarly to central bank reserves.[4]

Retail CBDCs can be distributed through various models.[5] In the intermediated model, the central bank issues the CBDC and manages core infrastructures, while financial intermediaries offer customer services. The ECB and the Federal Reserve have proposed intermediated CBDCs.[6][7] Alternatively, the central bank could either provide the full service or delegate responsibilities further.[5]

The present concept of CBDCs differs from virtual currency and cryptocurrency in that a CBDC would be issued by a state.[8][9][10][11] Most CBDC implementations will likely not use or need any sort of distributed ledger such as a blockchain.[12][13][14]

In 2023, over 120 different jurisdictions, including major economies like the ECB, UK, and the US, were evaluating national digital currencies.[15] As it currently stands, 9 countries and the 8 islands making up the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union have launched CBDCs; 38 countries and Hong Kong have CBDC pilot programs; and 67 countries and 2 currency unions are researching CBDCs.[15] In the United States, some states have introduced legislation[16][17] to ban state payments using CBDCs with Florida being the first state to pass such a law citing privacy concerns.[18]

CBDCs have faced a plethora of criticisms among those being that a "centrally managed, centrally controlled, CBDC is a tool for coercion and control"[19] and that it would "allow the government to spy on" the citizenry.[20]


Although the term "CBDC" did not become widely used until after 2019, central banks have researched and launched digital currency projects for decades. For example, Finland's central bank issued the Avant stored value e-money card in the 1990s.[21] In 2014, the Chinese central bank began researching the idea of issuing a CBDC.[22] Elsewhere, the Ecuadorian central bank operated a mobile payment system from 2014 to 2018.[23] In 2021, Australia's central bank conducted a proof of concept for a wholesale CBDC using Ethereum to tokenize syndicated loans, aiming to automate and secure high-value transactions in the banking sector.[24]


A central bank digital currency would likely be implemented using a database run by the central bank, government, or approved private-sector entities.[12][13][14] The database would keep a record (with appropriate privacy and cryptographic protections) of the amount of money held by every entity, such as people and corporations.[12]

In contrast to cryptocurrency, a central bank digital currency would be centrally controlled (even if it was on a distributed database), and so a blockchain or other distributed ledger would likely not be required or useful - even as they were the original inspiration for the concept.[12][13][14]

By March 2024, the central banks of 134 countries accounting for 98% of the world's GDP were said to be in various stages of evaluating the launch of a national digital currency.[25] These included the ECB, the UK, and the US.[26][27] China's digital RMB was the first digital currency to be issued by a major economy.[28][29] Six central banks have launched a CBDC: the Central Bank of The Bahamas (Sand Dollar), the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (DCash), the Central Bank of Nigeria (e-Naira), the Bank of Jamaica (JamDex), People's Bank of China (Digital renminbi), the Reserve Bank of India (Digital Rupee), and Bank of Russia (Digital Ruble).[30] The Central Bank of Brazil has been rolling out tests of a digital Brazilian currency (Drex) since March 2023.[31] The ECB/Eurozone decided in October 2023 to move forward to the preparation phase for the potential issuance of a digital euro after a two-year study phase.[32]

Some states have also issued, or have considered issuing, cryptocurrencies: these include Venezuela (Petro) and the Marshall Islands (Sovereign). These cryptocurrencies are often considered with the intent of increasing a state's independence from global financial systems, such as by reducing dependence on a foreign currency or by evading international sanctions.[33][34]

Contrasting attitudes towards digital currencies were demonstrated by developments in the UK and Switzerland in February 2023. The UK Treasury and the Bank of England said a state-backed digital pound was likely to be launched some time after 2025. Two weeks later, a Swiss lobby group triggered a national vote on maintaining a "sufficient quantity" of cash in circulation over fears that electronic payments make it easier for the state to monitor its citizens' actions.[35] In a comment on the British government’s plans, the BBC's Faisal Islam said the issue was about access to the data attached to every spending transaction, and whether people might choose to trust a global company more than the state: "The eye here is on maintaining UK monetary sovereignty against upheaval from the likes of Big Tech."[36]

A major problem with central bank digital currencies is deciding whether the currency should be easily trackable. If it's traceable, the government has more control than it currently does. Additionally, there's a technical aspect to consider: whether CBDCs should be based on tokens or accounts and how much anonymity users should have.[37]


A CBDC is a digital counterpart to fiat money, issued by central banks.[38] Like paper banknotes, it is a means of payment, a unit of account, and a store of value.[39] And like paper currency, each unit is uniquely identifiable to prevent counterfeiting.[40] CBDC will have implications for commercial banks, probably in the field of lowering banks' commissions, no big customer data-selling ability, accumulating the deposits and deposit policies and credit policies due to higher funding costs for banks.[41]

Digital fiat currency is part of the base money supply,[42] together with other forms of the currency. As such, DFC is a liability of the central bank just as physical currency is.[43] It is a digital bearer instrument that can be stored, transferred and transmitted by all kinds of digital payment systems and services. The validity of the digital fiat currency is independent of the digital payment systems storing and transferring the digital fiat currency.[44]

Proposals for CBDC implementation often involve the provision of universal bank accounts at the central banks for all citizens.[45][46]

Benefits and impacts[edit]

Governments and central banks are studying CBDCs and their implications for financial inclusion, economic growth, technology innovation, and the efficiency of bank transactions.[47][48] Potential advantages include:

  • Technological efficiency: instead of relying on intermediaries such as banks and clearing houses, money transfers and payments could be made in real time, directly from the payer to the payee. Being real time has some advantages:
    • Reduces risk: payment for goods and services often needs to be done in a timely manner and when payment verification is slow, merchants usually accept the risk of some payments not succeeding in exchange for faster service to customers. When these risks are eliminated with instant payment verifications, merchants no longer need to use intermediaries to handle the risk or to absorb the risk cost themselves.
    • Reduces complexity: merchants will not need to separately keep track of transactions that are slow (where the customer claims to have paid but the money has not arrived yet), therefore eliminate the waiting queue, which could simplify the transaction process from payment to rendition of goods/services.
    • Reduces (or eliminates) transaction fees: current payment systems like Visa, Mastercard, American Express etc. have a fee attached to each transaction and lowering or eliminating these fees could lead to widespread price drops and increased adoption of digital payments.
  • Financial inclusion: safe money accounts at the central banks could constitute a strong instrument of financial inclusion, allowing any legal resident or citizen to be provided with a free or low-cost basic bank account.
  • Preventing illicit activity: A CBDC makes it feasible for a central bank to keep track of the exact location of every unit of the currency (assuming the more probable centralized, database form)[49]
    • Tax collection: It makes tax avoidance and tax evasion much more difficult, since it would become impossible to use methods such as offshore banking and unreported employment to hide financial activity from the central bank or government. In contrast, cryptocurrencies risk undermining effort to crack down on corporate tax avoidance.[50]
    • Combating crime: It makes it much easier to spot criminal activity (by observing financial activity), and thus put an end to it.[49] Furthermore, in cases where criminal activity has already occurred, tracking makes it much harder to successfully launder money, and it would often be straightforward to instantly reverse a transaction and return money to the victim of the crime.
  • Proof of transaction: a digital record exists to prove that money changed hands between two parties which avoids problems inherent to cash such as short-changing, cash theft and conflicting testimonies.
  • Protection of money as a public utility: digital currencies issued by central banks would provide a modern alternative to physical cash – whose abolition is currently being envisaged.[51]
  • Safety of payments systems: A secure and standard interoperable digital payment instrument issued and governed by a Central Bank and used as the national digital payment instruments boosts confidence in privately controlled money systems and increases trust in the entire national payment system[52][53] while also boosting competition in payment systems.
  • Preservation of seigniorage income: public digital currency issuance would avoid a predictable reduction of seigniorage income for governments in the event of a disappearance of physical cash.[54]
  • Banking competition: the provision of free bank accounts at the central bank offering complete safety of money deposits could strengthen competition between banks to attract bank deposits, for example by offering once again remunerated sight deposits.
  • Monetary policy transmission: the issuance of central bank base money through transfers to the public could constitute a new channel for monetary policy transmission[55][56][57] (i.e. helicopter money[58]), which would allow more direct control of the money supply than indirect tools such as quantitative easing and interest rates, and possibly lead the way towards a full reserve banking system.[59] In digital Yuan trial in Shenzhen, the CBDC was programmed with an expiration date, which encouraged spending and discouraged money from sitting in a saving account. In the end, 90% of vouchers were spent in shops.[60] Demurrage could be implemented, such as by shaving off fractions of the value on a scheduled basis, as a supplement to traditional inflation targets.[61]
  • Financial safety: CBDC would provide an alternative to fractional reserve banking for daily uses, for those who want to avoid all risk of bank runs, despite the relative safety provided by deposit insurance.[62]


Despite having potential advantages, CBDCs remain a controversial topic, and there are risks associated with their implementation.

  • Banking system disintermediation: With the ability to provide digital currency directly to its citizens, one concern is that depositors would shift out of the banking system. Customers may deem the safety, liquidity, solvibility, and publicity of CBDCs to be more attractive,[63] weakening the balance sheet position of commercial banks.[64] In the extreme, this could precipitate potential bank runs[65] and thus make banks' funding positions weaker. However, the Bank of England found that if the introduction of CBDC follows a set of core principles, the risk of a system-wide run from bank deposits to CBDC is addressed.[66] A central bank could also limit the demand of CBDCs by setting a ceiling on the amount of holdings.[63]
  • Centralization: Since most central bank digital currencies are centralized, rather than decentralized like most cryptocurrencies, the controllers of the issuance of CBDCs can add or remove money from anyone's account with a flip of a switch.
  • Digital dollarization: A well-run foreign digital currency could become a replacement for a local currency for the same reasons as those described in dollarization.[67] The announcement of Facebook's Libra contributed to the increased attention to CBDCs by central bankers,[68] as well as China's progress with DCEP to that of several Asian economies.[63]
  • Privacy:
    • "Governments have direct visibility of financial transactions",[69] an "eagle-eyed view on the spending of everyone".[70]
    • Digital currency would give a country "broad new powers when it comes to surveillance and controlling its population."[70]
    • Data from tracing money routes could lead to losing financial privacy if the CBDC implementation does not have adequate privacy protections. This could lead to encouraging of self-censorship, deterioration of freedom of expression and association, and ultimately to stalling social developments.[71]
  • Government Social Manipulation:
    • Digital currency "will simply become an extension of the surveillance state" and "it could see citizens fined in a split second for behaviors deemed undesirable. Dissidents and activists could see their wallets emptied or taken offline."[69]
    • Limiting individual freedom: "Digital currencies could also empower the state to make it impossible to donate to a vocal NGO"[69]
    • Limiting or prohibiting purchases of products: Digital currency could prohibit a "purchase alcohol on a weekday. "[69]
    • Digital currency "is also programmable. The government could theoretically give out money that expires within a certain period of time or money that could only be used on certain items, which could be used to induce behaviour that the government is seeking."[70]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Focus Group on Digital Currency including Digital Fiat Currency". ITU. Retrieved 3 December 2017.
  2. ^ Mersch, Yves (16 January 2017). Digital Base Money: an assessment from the ECB's perspective (Speech). Farewell ceremony for Pentti Hakkarainen, Deputy Governor of Suomen Pankki – Finlands Bank. Helsinki: European Central Bank. Retrieved 19 June 2021.
  3. ^ Davoodalhosseini, M., Rivadeneyra, F., & Zhu, Y. (2020). CBDC and monetary policy (No. 2020-4). Bank of Canada.
  4. ^ a b "Concept Note on Central Bank Digital Currency". Reserve Bank of India. 7 October 2022.
  5. ^ a b Lavayssière, Xavier (1 September 2022), Central Bank Digital Currencies: the Quest for Public Digital Payment Infrastructures, École Polytechnique, doi:10.2139/ssrn.4649480, SSRN 4649480
  6. ^ European Central Bank (18 October 2023). "A stocktake on the digital euro - Summary report on the investigation phase and outlook on the next phase" (PDF).
  7. ^ "Money and Payments: The U.S. Dollar in the Age of Digital Transformation" (PDF). Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. January 2022.
  8. ^ Bech, Morten; Garratt, Rodney. "Central Bank Cryptocurrencies" (PDF). BIS. Retrieved 25 August 2020.
  9. ^ Silva, Matthew De (19 September 2019). "What China could gain from a digital yuan". Quartz. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  10. ^ "Speech by Jen Weidmann at the Bundesbank Policy Symposium "Frontiers in Central Banking – Past, Present and Future"". www.bundesbank.de. Archived from the original on 14 June 2017. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  11. ^ "Financial innovation and monetary policy: Challenges and prospects" (PDF). European Parliament. 2017.
  12. ^ a b c d Boston, Federal Reserve Bank of (3 February 2022). "Project Hamilton Phase 1 Executive Summary". Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Retrieved 9 February 2022.
  13. ^ a b c Yang, Yuan; Lockett, Hudson (25 November 2019). "What is China's digital currency plan?". Financial Times.
  14. ^ a b c "Analytical Report on the E-Hryvnia Pilot Project" (PDF). National Bank of Ukraine.
  15. ^ a b "HRF CBDC Tracker". Human Rights Foundation. Retrieved 27 November 2023.
  16. ^ "HB 1082 - Relating to Central Bank Digital Currency". North Dakota Can. Retrieved 24 January 2024.
  17. ^ "North Carolina House Passes Bill Prohibiting State Payments With CBDCs". NASDAQ.
  18. ^ "Governor Ron DeSantis Signs First-in-the-Nation Legislation to Protect Against Government Surveillance of Personal Finances". Retrieved 24 January 2024.
  19. ^ "The Risk of CBDCs". www.cato.org. Retrieved 21 December 2023.
  20. ^ "The Risk of CBDCs". www.cato.org. Retrieved 21 December 2023.
  21. ^ Grym, Aleksi; Heikkinen, Päivi; Kauko, Karlo; Takala, Kari (2017). "Central bank digital currency". BoF Economics Review. 5.
  22. ^ Working Group on E-CNY Research and Development of the People's People's People's People's Bank of China (July 2021). "Progress of Research & Development of E-CNY in China" (PDF). People's Bank of China. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 July 2021.
  23. ^ Arauz, Andrés; Garratt, Rodney; Ramos F., Diego F. (1 June 2021). "Dinero Electrónico: The rise and fall of Ecuador's central bank digital currency". Latin American Journal of Central Banking. 2 (2): 100030. doi:10.1016/j.latcb.2021.100030. ISSN 2666-1438.
  24. ^ "Exploring a Wholesale CBDC for Syndicated Lending" (PDF). Reserve Bank of Australia. Retrieved 11 May 2024.
  25. ^ "Central Bank Digital Currency Tracker". Atlantic Council. Retrieved 27 March 2024.
  26. ^ Christine Lagarde [@lagarde] (16 April 2021). "Our work on a possible #digitaleuro continues" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  27. ^ "Will central-bank digital currencies break the banking system?". The Economist. 5 December 2020. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  28. ^ Areddy, James T. (5 April 2021). "Bahamas is the first country in the world to issue central bank digital currency (Bahamanian Dollar)". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  29. ^ Popper, Nathaniel; Li, Cao (1 March 2021). "China Charges Ahead With a National Digital Currency". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  30. ^ "Central Bank Digital Currency Tracker". Atlantic Council. Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  31. ^ "Banco Central do Brasil". www.bcb.gov.br. Retrieved 9 November 2023.
  32. ^ Bank, European Central (18 October 2023). "Eurosystem proceeds to next phase of digital euro project". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  33. ^ U.S. Warns Banks, Crypto Firms Against Potential Efforts to Evade Russian Sanctions (9 March 2022) www.wsj.com. Retrieved 9 March 2022.
  34. ^ Keane, Jonathan (23 April 2018). "Inside the Marshall Islands' plans to launch its own legal tender cryptocurrency". The Next Web. Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  35. ^ "Swiss to vote on preventing cashless society, pressure group says". Reuters. 6 February 2023. Retrieved 21 February 2023.
  36. ^ "Digital pound likely this decade, Treasury says". BBC News. 6 February 2023. Retrieved 21 February 2023.
  37. ^ Solberg Söilen, Klaus; Benhayoun, Lamiae (1 February 2022). "Household acceptance of central bank digital currency: the role of institutional trust". International Journal of Bank Marketing. 40 (1): 172–196. doi:10.1108/IJBM-04-2021-0156. ISSN 0265-2323.
  38. ^ "Central bank digital currencies are in the spotlight - KPMG Global". KPMG. 6 May 2022. Retrieved 12 March 2024.
  39. ^ "Should the Riksbank issue e-krona?" (PDF). Sveriges Riksbank.
  40. ^ "Medium Term Recommendations to Strengthen Digital Payments Ecosystem" (PDF). Committee on Digital Payments: Ministry of Finance, Government of India. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 July 2017. Retrieved 17 July 2017.
  41. ^ Jagrič, Timotej; Fister, Dušan; Amon, Aleksandra; Jagrič, Vita; Beloglavec, Sabina Taškar (15 September 2022), Grima, Simon; Özen, Ercan; Boz, Hakan (eds.), "The Banking Industry in the Ecosystem of Digital Currencies and Digital Central Bank Currencies", Contemporary Studies in Economic and Financial Analysis, Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 89–115, doi:10.1108/s1569-37592022000109a006, ISBN 978-1-80382-980-7, retrieved 2 December 2022
  42. ^ Meaning, Jack; Dyson, Ben; Barker, James; Clayton, Emily (25 May 2018). "Broadening Narrow Money: Monetary Policy with a Central Bank Digital Currency". Bank of England (724). doi:10.2139/ssrn.3180720. S2CID 158676984. SSRN 3180720.
  43. ^ "Central Bank Digital Currencies" (PDF). Bank for International Settlements. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  44. ^ Tracy, Ryan (10 December 2015). "Central Bankers Explore Response to Bitcoin: Their Own Digital Cash". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 19 June 2021.
  45. ^ "Digital Cash: Why central banks should issue digital currency". positivemoney.org. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  46. ^ "Sovereign Digital Currency". sovereign money. Archived from the original on 11 November 2017. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  47. ^ World Economic Forum. "Central Bank Digital Currency Policy-Maker Toolkit" (PDF). Retrieved 3 January 2021.
  48. ^ Bordo, Michael; Levin, Andrew (23 September 2017). "Central bank digital currency and the future of monetary policy". VoxEU.org. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  49. ^ a b Bindseil, Ulrich (January 2020). "Tiered CBDC and the financial system" (PDF). ECB Working Paper (ECB Working Paper Series No 2351 / January 2020): 6–7. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
  50. ^ Iwayemi, Sion Bell, Timi (27 July 2021). "How to Catch Bitcoin Tax Cheats". Washington Monthly. Retrieved 21 February 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  51. ^ Das, Satyajit. "Think Twice About Going Cashless". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on 11 November 2020. Retrieved 19 June 2021.
  52. ^ Nicolaisen, Jon (25 April 2017). What should the future form of our money be? (Speech). Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters: Norges Bank. Retrieved 19 June 2021.
  53. ^ Riksbanken. "Ingves: Do we need an e-krona?". www.riksbank.se. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  54. ^ "Central Bank Digital Currency: Motivations and Implications". www.bankofcanada.ca. 30 November 2017. Retrieved 3 December 2017.
  55. ^ "Central Bank Digital Currency: A Monetary Policy Perspective". Central bank of Malaysia. Archived from the original on 30 July 2020. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  56. ^ Heller, Daniel (15 May 2017). The implications of digital currencies for monetary policy (Report). European Parliament Think Tank. Retrieved 19 June 2021.
  57. ^ "Helicopter money is "a real possibility," says Czech central banker". Positive Money Europe. 15 March 2018. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  58. ^ Hampl, Mojmir; Havranek, Tomas (2019). "Central Bank Equity as an Instrument of Monetary Policy". Comparative Economic Studies. 62: 49–68. doi:10.1057/s41294-019-00092-1. S2CID 59485719.
  59. ^ Stevens, A (June 2017). "Digital currencies: threats and opportunities for monetary policy | nbb.be". www.nbb.be. National Bank of Belgium. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  60. ^ Chen, Yawen (24 November 2020). "China's e-yuan solves one stimulus problem". The Business Times. Reuters. Archived from the original on 19 January 2021. Retrieved 20 June 2021.
  61. ^ "CBDC Part II: A New Form of Monetary Policy? | Portfolio for the Future | CAIA". caia.org. Retrieved 19 January 2023.
  62. ^ Mayer, Thomas (6 November 2019). "A digital euro to save EMU". VoxEU.org. Retrieved 10 November 2019.
  63. ^ a b c Tilton, Andrew (29 October 2020). "The what and why of digital currencies" (PDF). Goldman Sachs Research Newsletter. No. 94. Goldman Sachs. Archived (PDF) from the original on 29 March 2021. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  64. ^ Pfister, Christian (September 2017). "Monetary Policy and Digital Currencies: Much Ado about Nothing?" (PDF). Banque de France Working Paper. Banque de France. Retrieved 19 June 2021.
  65. ^ Smets, Jan (9 December 2016). "Fintech and Central Banks" (PDF). National Bank of Belgium.
  66. ^ Kumhof, Michael; Noone, Clare (May 2018). "Central bank digital currencies — design principles and balance sheet implications" (PDF). Bank of England. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  67. ^ Carstens, Agustín (27 January 2021). Digital currencies and the future of the monetary system (PDF) (Speech). Hoover Institution policy seminar. Basel: Bank of International Settlements. Archived (PDF) from the original on 30 April 2021. Retrieved 19 June 2021.
  68. ^ Panetta, Fabio (27 November 2020). From the payments revolution to the reinvention of money (Speech). Deutsche Bundesbank conference on the "Future of Payments in Europe". Frankfurt: European Central Bank. Archived from the original on 6 March 2021. Retrieved 19 June 2021.
  69. ^ a b c d "How China's Digital Currency Could Challenge the Almighty Dollar; Charlie Campbell". Time.com. 11 August 2021.
  70. ^ a b c "China is blazing a trail with the digital yuan and governments around the world are watching closely; Ethan Lou". FinancialPost.com. 27 January 2022.
  71. ^ Ori Freiman, The Ethics of Central Bank Digital Currency (Ethics of AI in Context), retrieved 22 January 2022

External links[edit]