45 years ago: bankgirocentrale en betaalcheque announced

On this day, 45 years ago, the commercial banks in the Netherlands announced that they were going to set up the bankgirocentrale, a clearing platform for interbank payments. And while they were at it, they also announced the introduction of the betaalcheque, to facilitate point of sale payments by means of a cheque and cheque card. These announcements marked the beginning of the collective move of commercial banks to gain foothold in the retail market and penetrate the retail market with current accounts.

It should be noted that the decision to introduce a cheque payment system was inspired by the existing alternative of the credit-card. Banks had seen the cost involving the payment with credit cards and did not wish to penalize the shop owners with transaction fees of 2-5% of the amount paid. So they chose for the paper based system of guranteed cheques. This system existed 35 years and was abolished with the introduction of the euro.

Now, when in the 1980s technology had evolved and credit-cards moved to Europe, the threat of credit-card based Point-of-Sale systems made the Oil Companies of the Netherlands push the banks into building a Dutch point of sale system. And while it did take some time, we eventually ended up with the national PIN-system, as of 1987. And exactly this week, the system has seen its last transactions and is replaced by international debit-card systems.

It is interesting to see how the life-time of the cheque-system was 35 years and that of the PIN-system some 25-odd years. And while the credit-card penetration in the Netherlands is still comparably low, it is the mere threat of the expensive credit-card system that has made us introduce some inexepensive own Dutch-flavoured payment systems.

Bankgirocentrale building at Sloterdijkkade 22