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In the past three or so years, an annual trend had developed that saw banking halls crowded with customers withdrawing their money to facilitate the annual festive shopping extravaganza.

Zimbabweans had over recent years developed a culture of carrying hard cash and using hard cash for all transactions, large and small. Whether one was buying a few groceries worth $100 or paying for a car worth $10,000, there was a huge bias towards making and receiving payments for goods in cold hard cash. Fortunately, the banking sector has responded pretty swiftly not only to ensure that adequate cash holdings are available during this period of increased money demand, but they have also put in place many alternative payment platforms, which are available for customers to use in order to avoid queuing up in banking halls or carrying large amounts of cash around.

Why is carrying cash around risky?

Let us remember that carrying large amounts of cash around also poses a high personal security risk for people as they are exposed to muggings and theft of the cash. It is common cause that the “cash economy” as most of us now know it, also puts pressure on banks to provide adequate notes in bank vaults so that the banking public can have access to their money as the festive spending rises.

How can you prepare yourself adequately for the “Seasonal Cash Demand”?
Since the adoption of the multicurrency system in 2009 there has been a growing demand for cash particularly in late November through to December of each year. This natural seasonal increase in the demand for cash is caused by the need for increased cash holdings by economic agents to pay for various transactions. The bonus payments at the end of the year naturally result in people having a little bit more to spend and therefore they hold relatively larger cash balances in their pockets, wallets, purses and homes. This is because the end of the year is a natural time for that extra spending on goods and services. Some also take the opportunity to settle those nagging long time debts and obligations. But do we have to use cash to settle all these bills, pay for groceries or buy that dress for a Christmas gift?
Banks naturally will have prepared adequately for the increased cash demand and I am sure that a lot of cash has already been imported from thousands of miles away to cater for the increased needs of the public. This leads us to another important point about use of US Cash in the economy.

“Importing Cash is Neither Free Nor Cheap”
Yes, this is unfortunately true! Just think about how that crisp new $100 note ends up in your wallet when the teller pays it to you as you make a cash withdrawal. Every note that we have in circulation in the country has travelled a long way to get here, but at a cost.

Whilst some bit of the cash that we use every day comes into the country through the borders as people travel into the country and leave their US Dollars here after spending them on local goods and services, the bulk of the cash that is circulating in the country is directly imported by the banks in Zimbabwe.

Sadly, whilst at face value it may seem cheap to use cash, it is in actual fact very expensive to use cash all the time. Worse still, a lot of the cash that banks are importing at great expense is being exported by people as they travel to other country’s to buy goods for resale locally. These imports are made mostly in cash and as we have said above, this cash does not come back into the country. The neighbouring countries get the cash for free after our banks have imported it at great cost.
How we can conserve our cash?
How can the banking public assist the banks in making sure that there is enough cash to go around during the oncoming peak season? Consumers can and should utilize alternative payment platforms and avoid, firstly spending hours queuing in banks and secondly carrying huge amounts of cash on their person. Here are a few tips on how we can all enjoy the festive season, whilst not facing the unpleasant inconvenience of having to run out of cash.
Technology has advanced quite rapidly, and it is high time all consumers adapt to change, move with the times and adopt convenient ways of transacting.

Avoid Banking Halls Rather Withdraw Cash from ATMS
Zimbabwe’s banking system has put at the disposal of the banking system a wide network of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs). Some banks have even gone further to introduce in-store ATMs so that instead of going into the banking hall, simply withdraw cash from the ATM and effect your transactions using your card if there is a Point of Sale device installed within the shop.
Use POS machines
Always use a point of sale machine with your ATM card whenever there is one installed in the shop. POS charges are normally cheaper than cash withdrawal charges that most banks levy for withdrawing cash from the bank or ATM. Most point of sale facilities also have a cash-back facility where you can get the extra cash you need in the same transaction that you pay for goods or services. Using POS based facilities enables you to save yourself a trip to the bank.
Sign up for SMS and email alerts
Most banks now offer SMS alert services that send you notifications whenever a transaction happens on your account. Sign up for this platform and receive SMS message alerts for all transactions on your account. This way you do not need to walk into the banking hall to inquire about your balance.
Use Internet Banking Platforms
Instead of queuing for hours just to do a bank transfer, or to make a cash withdrawal, sign up for Internet Banking services with your bank and effect your transfers from the comfort of your home or office or on the move via your desktop PC, laptop, tablets and iPads. Use this payment method for paying utility bills, and even personal debts. Develop the habit of asking for your creditor’s account details and transfer the money to them, rather than going to the bank and getting cash.
Mobile Banking platforms are quite convenient
Buy airtime, pay for goods and services and utility bills via your telephone through mobile banking platforms available from almost all banks in Zimbabwe. There are also a variety mobile based transfer platforms to choose from and the banking public is encouraged to use these convenient facilities, to send or receive money.

Clive Mphambela is a Banker. He writes in his capacity as Advocacy Officer for the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe. BAZ expressly invites stakeholders to give their valuable comments and feedback related to this article to him on clive@baz.org.zw or on numbers 04-744686, 0772206913. Please visit the BAZ website www.baz.org.zw for similar advice on banking issues.
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