Over the course of documenting the ECB’s push to phase out the €500 note, we stumbled upon something rather interesting that’s taking place at Greek banks.
Courtesy of a reader, we learned that Piraeus Bank (among others) has begun charging a fee to exchange large denomination bills for small. The charge is listed as 0.15% by the bank and Kathimerini would later report that across the Greek banking sector “exchanging one 500-euro note for smaller bills, [will cost you] 3-5 euros (depending on the bank), while the maximum charge comes to 200-250 euros regardless of the amount a customer wishes to exchange.”
This is amusing for two reasons: 1) the ECB effectively gets to charge for the privilege for banning large bills and 2) it means that if you are Greek and you were effectively forced to take your money out of the bank because after last summer you feared a depositor bail-in might be right around the corner, you now have the distinct pleasure of having to pay a fee to exchange your large bills for smaller ones at the very same banks where you withdrew the money in the first place.
The entire effort to eliminate the €500 note is set against the backdrop of a larger push to phase out physical cash. Without physical cash, there is no effective lower bound as citizens cannot resort to banknotes and coins when interest rates fall. Rates then, can go as low as the central bank needs them to in order to facilitate consumer spending and thus centrally plan the economy.
Of course central banks aren’t going to come out and say that. The official reason given for eliminating large bills (and sooner or later small bills too) is that it reduces crime. If there’s no cash there will always be an electronic record of transactions which presumably would deter criminal activity unless criminals resort to payment in-kind or otherwise devise an underworld barter system.
Unfortunately, even if you do have a good reason (not to mention a right) to be in possession of large amounts of cash in high denomination notes you’re going to be treated like a criminal, and it starts in Greece. As Kathimerini reports, Greeks who attempt to exchange €500 notes for smaller bills will now have their transaction and personal data recorded by the bank. Here’s more:Commercial banks are being ordered to note the personal data and transaction history of clients who exchange 500-euro notes, along with cross-checking the details recorded with other transactions by those customers, according to a circular issued by the Bank of Greece.
The aim of the measure – on top of a commission charged by banks on the exchange of 500-euro banknotes with smaller ones – is to prevent money laundering, which experts believe to be behind demands by certain bank clients to exchange bills of high denomination.
Full article: Greece Orders Banks To Record “Personal Data” On Anyone Who Was Hoarding Cash (Zero Hedge)