A cash credit is an undertaking on the part of the bank to advance to an individual such sums of money as he may from time to time require, not exceeding in the whole a certain definite amount; the individual to whom the credit is given entering into a bond with securities, generally two in number, for the repayment on demand of the sums actually advanced, with interest upon each issue from the day upon which it is made.
Cash credits are rarely given for sums below £100; they generally range from £200 to £500, sometimes reaching £1,000, and occasionally a larger sum.
A cash credit is, in fact, the same thing as an overdrawn current account, except that in a current account the party overdraws on his own individual security, and in the cash credit he finds two sureties who are responsible for him. Another difference is, that a person cannot overdraw his current account, without requesting permission each time from the bank; whereas the overdrawing of a cash credit is a regular matter of business-it is, in fact, the very thing for which the cash credit has been granted. The following advantages have been ascribed to the cash credit system:-
1. Cash credits enable young men of good character to acquire wealth and respectability.
"I have known many instances of young men who were starting in the world from low situations-of servants, who have conducted themselves well during the time they were apprentices-of farm-servants even, who were able to procure an account from a bank by means of some friends or acquaintances becoming their securities-that in the course of their business have raised themselves by becoming farmers of considerable extent, or manufacturers in a way highly creditable to themselves and beneficial to their country.1
1 This and the following quotations are taken from the evidence given by the witnesses from Scotland, before the Committees of Lords and Commons, appointed to consider the expediency of abolishing the notes-nnder £5 in 1826.
"Without cash credits, sober, attentive, and industrious people would not have the means at all of following up what they very deservedly might be encouraged to follow up. They begin the world, in all probability, with a mere trifle, which trifle they have been known to make by their own industry. Having made that, it recommends then character to persons of, perhaps, a little more fortune, who, to encourage them, become sureties for their cash accounts.
"The classes of persons who have cash credits are very various; but they are generally the industrious classes of persons-merchants, and traders, and farmers.
"The accommodation is more readily given to a small than to a large amount-the bank preferring to grant ten. credits for £100, than one for £1,000, thereby demonstrating that their accounts are quite as much for the assistance of the poor as for the accommodation of the rich."
2. Cash credits furnish great facility to tradesmen and others in carrying on their business, either in the way of raising money, in making purchases, or in employing at particular seasons their surplus capital.
"Is the advantage to the party borrowing greater under the system of cash credit than under the system of lending in the ordinary mode?-Infinitely.
"Why? - As to the question of actual pounds, shillings, or pence, paid in the shape of interest, there is, in the first place, this difference, that when he discounts a bill, he pays the interest on the sum for three months, if that be the currency of it. Should any accidental mercantile transactions throw into this individual's hands, on the next day, the same amount which he had received thus from the banker, he has lost the benefit of the transaction, because he must keep this : if he has a deposit account with the banker he must keep it at banker's interest, while he is anticipated by having paid to the banker three months' discount interest on his bill. If a trader were to take his money systematically by discounts instead of by cash accounts, a disadvantage to him would arise. The same principle applies to small sums : if half or a quarter, or any part of the advance which he may have received upon the cash account comes into him, he immediately lessens the advance by paying it into the bank, and the interest being calculated at the close of the account, there is a progressive account of interest diminishing with the principal sum till it is extinguished. So far as to actual benefit of interest; but the convenience of getting money when wanted affords a very material advantage, independent of the actual benefit.
"What are the facilities that exist in obtaining this sort of advantage, compared with those of obtaining an ordinary loan?-"When a person applies for a cash account, which is not an immediate advance of money on the part of the bank, but a conferring of the power or privilege of drawing upon the bank to the extent specified, the person proposes two or more personal securities: a bond is made out, and he draws as occasion requires. In this way, he has never more from the bank than is absolutely necessary for the purposes of his business. The account is never recalled, unless it has ceased to be beneficial to the bank, by having been but little operated upon, and thus not having promoted the circulation of the bank's notes. Whenever it becomes a dead advance, the bank calls it up. In the case of a person obtaining a loan, he would probably, in the first place, have to pay the interest down at once; he would have to pay it upon the whole sum, whether he should require it ultimately or not, and it would be liable to be recalled by the lender at his pleasure.
"The person who procures a cash credit, does so upon the security of two or three substantial individuals. He may be a man of little property, but upon that security he gets a credit, perhaps, of £500 : his bill to anything like that amount, without those securities, would not be discounted.