The European Central Bank has taken another step toward launching a digital version of the euro that will allow people in the 20 countries that use the single currency to make electronic payments securely and free of charge, writes Reuters.

Starting November 1, the ECB is preparing to launch a two-year “preparation phase” for the digital euro, during which it will finalize the rules, select private sector partners, and conduct “testing and experimentation.” After that, the ECB plans to decide whether to proceed to the next stage of digital euro implementation.

Although the decision taken now is a small step in a multi-year project, it puts the ECB ahead of other G7 central banks and can serve as an example to follow.

The digital euro will be similar in most respects to an online wallet or bank account, except that it will be free to use and guaranteed by the ECB rather than a private company, making it safer.

But the project has its share of critics who fear that it will take deposits away from the commercial sector. To calm concerns about commercial banks being squeezed out, the ECB has said it will set a limit on the number of digital euros that one person can hold, probably around 3 thousand euros.