A CASH credit is an understanding 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.

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 securities who are responsible for him. Another difference is, that a person cannot overdraw his current account without asking permission each time from the bank, whereas the overdrawing of a cash credit account is a regular matter of business; it is, in fact, the purpose for which the cash credit has been granted.

The following considerations will show that a person who has occasion for temporary advances of money will find it more advantageous to raise these sums by a cash credit than by having bills discounted: -

First. In a cash credit the party pays interest only for the money he actually employs.

If a person wants to make use of 100, and has a bill for 150, he will get the bill discounted, and thus pays interest for 50 for which he has no use. But if he has a cash credit he draws only 100, and pays interest for that amount.

Secondly. In a cash credit he can repay any part of the sum drawn whenever he pleases.

If a trader has a bill for 150 discounted to-day, and should unexpectedly receive 150 to-morrow, he cannot re-discount the bill, but has actually paid interest for money he does not want. But if he draws 150 upon his cash credit account to-day, and to-morrow receives 150, he takes this money to the bank, and will have to pay the Interest upon 150 for only one day.

Thirdly. In a cash credit he has the Dower of drawing whenever he pleases, to the full amount of his credit; but in the case of discounting bills, he must make a fresh application to the bank to discount each bill, and if the bank have at any time more profitable ways of employing their money, or if they suspect the credit of the applicant, they may refuse to discount, but this would not be the case if he had a cash credit.

Fourthly. In a cash credit the party does not pay the interest until the end of the year; whereas, in the other case, he pays the interest at the time the bill is discounted.

Cash credits are granted not only upon personal security, but also upon the security of the Public Funds.

This furnishes great facilities for raising money to those who possess property which they are not disposed to sell A person who is a holder of government stock may sell out a portion to supply his temporary necessities; and when he wishes to replace it he finds the price of stock has risen, and it will cost him more money to repurchase than he received when he sold. But if he transfers the stock to a bank as a security for a cash credit, he may repay the money whenever he pleases; and if, in the meantime, the value of the security should have risen, all the advantage will be his own.

The effects of cash credits are thus described by Adam Smith: -

"The commerce of Scotland, which at present is not very great, was still more inconsiderable when the two first banking companies were established, and those companies would have had but little trade had they confined their business to the discounting of bills of exchange. They invented, therefore, another method of issuing their promissory notes, by granting what they call cash accounts, that is, by giving credit to the extent of a certain sum (two or three thousand pounds, for example,) to any individual who could procure two persons of undoubted credit and good landed estate to become surety for him, that whatever money should be advanced to him within the sum for which the credit had been given should be repaid upon demand, together with the legal interest. Credits of this kind are, I believe, commonly granted by banks and bankers in all different parts of the world. But the easy terms upon which the Scotch banking companies accept of repayment are, so far as I know, peculiar to them, and have perhaps been the principal cause both of the great trade of those companies, and of the benefits which the country has received from it.

"Whoever has a credit of this kind with one of those companies, and borrows a thousand pounds upon it, for example, may repay this sum piecemeal, by twenty and thirty pounds at a time, the company discounting a proportional part of the interest of the great sum, from the day on which each of those small sums is paid in, till the whole be in this manner repaid. All merchants, therefore, and almost all men of business, find it convenient to keep such cash accounts with them, and are hereby interested to promote the trade of those companies by readily receiving their notes in all payments, and by encouraging all those with whom they have any influence to do the same. The banks, when their customers, apply to them for money, generally advance it to them on their own promissory notes. These the merchants pay away to the manufacturers for goods; the manufacturers to the farmers, for materials and provisions; the farmers to their landlords for rent; the landlords repay them to the merchants for the conveniences and luxuries with which they supply them; and the merchants again return them to the banks, in order to balance their cash accounts, or to replace what they may have borrowed of them: and thus almost the whole money business of the country is transacted by means of them. Hence the great trade of those companies.

"By means of those cash accounts every merchant can, without imprudence, carry on a greater trade than he otherwise could do. If there are two merchants - one in London and the other in Edinburgh - who employ equal stocks in the same branch of trade, the Edinburgh merchant can, without imprudence, carry on a greater trade and give employment to a greater number of people than the London merchant. The London merchant must always keep by him a considerable sum of money, either in his own coffers, or in those of his banker, who gives him no interest for it, in order to answer the demands continually coming upon him for payment of the goods he purchases upon credit. Let the ordinary amount of this sum be supposed five hundred pounds. The value of the goods in his warehouse must always be less by five hundred pounds than it would have been had he not been obliged to keep such a sum unemployed. Let us suppose that he generally disposes of his whole stock upon hand, or of goods to the value of his whole stock upon hand, once in the year. By being obliged to keep so great a sum unemployed, he must sell in a year five hundred pounds' Worth less goods than he might otherwise have done. His annual profits must be less by all that he could have made by the sale of five hundred pounds' worth more goods, and the number of people employed in preparing his goods for market must be less by all those that five hundred pounds more stock could have employed. The merchant in Edinburgh, on the other hand, keeps no money unemployed for answering such occasional demands. When they actually come upon him he satisfies them from his cash account with the bank, and gradually replaces the sum borrowed with the money or paper which comes in from the occasional sales of his goods. With the same stock, therefore, he can, without imprudence, have at all times in his warehouse a larger quantity of goods than the London merchant, and can thereby both make a greater profit himself and give constant employment to a greater number of industrious people who prepare those goods for the market. Hence, the greater benefit which the country has derived from this trade.

"The facility of discounting bills of exchange, it may be thought, indeed, gives the English merchants a convenience equivalent to the cash accounts of the Scotch merchants. But the Scotch merchants, it must be remembered, can discount their bills of exchange as easily as the English merchants, and have, besides, the additional conveniency of their cash account."l - Wealth of Nations, Book ii. chap. 2.


Is it better for a bank to make advances of money on cash credits, or by discounting bills of ax-change?

1 A fuller account of the system of cash credits will be found in vol. ii., pp. 188-97.

Bills Of Exchange Versus Cash Credits

1. Cash credits, when once granted, are not usually suddenly called up, but bills of exchange soon fall due, and you can refuse to discount again.

2. If you discount bills of exchange, they can be re-discounted to supply the bank with funds, if necessary, but advances on cash credits cannot be replaced.

3. In case of a panic or a run upon the bank, the persons having cash credits might have occasion to draw upon the bank, and the notes would immediately be returned upon the bank for payment in gold; but you could refuse to discount bills of exchange until the run was over.

Cash Credits Versus Bills Of Exchange

1. A higher Interest is charged upon cash credits than upon bills of exchange.

2. Cash credits, being of the nature of a permanent advance, are more beneficial to the parties; hence trade is more promoted, and the benefit to the bank must ultimately be greater.

3. Parties having cash credits are more closely connected with the bank, and hence would use their influence to prevent any run upon the bank, and to promote the prosperity of the bank.

4. The mode of recovering an advance upon a cash credit is more summary and certain, as the bond can be put into execution immediately, but an action for the recovery of an unpaid bill is very tedious, and may be frustrated by informality, etc.

A cash credit operates much in the same way as a discount account and a current account combined. It resembles a discount account inasmuch as a banker is usually in advance to his customer. It resembles a current account, as it is required that there be frequent operations upon it; that is, that there be perpetual payings in and drawings out of money. The bankers expect that a cash credit shall maintain a banking capital equal to its own amount. As the banker is usually in advance, a cash credit can create no banking capital by means of deposits; it can be done only by means of the notes. If then, the operations on a cash credit are sufficient to keep in circulation an amount of notes equal to the amount of the credit, then it gives satisfaction to the banker; but not otherwise. Previous to granting a cash credit, the banks always make inquiries to ascertain if this is likely to be the case; and even after it is granted it is liable to be called up if it has not accomplished this object. Hence, cash credits are denied to persons who have no means of circulating the banker's notes, or who wish to employ the money as a dead loan. And in all cases they are limited to such an amount as the party is supposed to be capable of employing with advantage to the bank.