Electronic money is broadly defined as an electronic store of monetary value on a technical device that may be widely used for making payments to undertakings other than the issuer without necessarily involving bank accounts in the transactions, but acting as a prepaid bearer instrument. The ECB's statistics capture the electronic money that is issued by Monetary Financial Institutions (MFIs) located within the euro area. In accordance with Regulation ECB/2008/32 (see link on the right-hand side), the amount outstanding of electronic money issued by euro area MFIs is included within the balance-sheet item "overnight deposits".
ECB series on electronic money issued by euro area MFIs start in January 1996. Some of the underlying national series start only in 1997 and 1998; the availability of additional national series accounts for part of the growth in euro area aggregates in those years. Further information on electronic money can be found in the "Report on electronic money" and the press release published by the ECB on 31 August 1998 (see link on the right-hand side), and in the article "Issues arising from the emergence of electronic money", which appeared in the November 2000 issue of the ECB's Monthly Bulletin.
At a technological level, electronic money products can be divided into hardware-based and software-based products, depending on the storage device. In the case of hardware-based products, purchasing power resides in a device containing hardware-based security features. By contrast, software-based products employ specialised software on a personal computer, typically allowing electronic value to be transferred via telecommunications networks, such as the internet.The collection of separate data on electronic money from euro area MFIs is not currently a legal requirement of the ECB. Nevertheless, almost all euro area national central banks (NCBs) and the NCBs of the non-participating EU Member States collect separate data on the amounts outstanding of electronic money issued by MFIs.