WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve today released a highly anticipated report on central bank digital currencies that suggested it is leaning toward having banks and other financial firms, rather than the Fed itself, manage digital accounts for customers.
A central bank digital currency would differ in some key ways from the online and digital payments that millions of Americans already conduct. It wouldn’t necessarily require the user to have a bank account. The Fed’s paper, while stressing that no final decisions have been reached, said it would likely follow an “intermediate model” for a digital dollar under which banks or payment firms would create accounts or digital wallets.
Such a government-issued digital dollar could have major consequences for commercial banks because many Americans might prefer to hold such currency in a “wallet” issued by a payment provider like PayPal or Venmo, potentially cutting into bank deposits. It would compete with the burgeoning stablecoin market and could reduce the cost of financial transactions, particularly overseas remittances.
The Fed is likely years away from issuing a digital currency, if it decides to do so. The paper released today kicks off a 120-day comment period, during which the Fed will seek input from the public. Fed officials said the central bank has made no decisions about a digital currency or how it would work. The Fed said it would proceed only if Congress specifically passed a law authorizing a digital currency.