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Cashless ‘fear’ as date Australia will ditch physical money is revealed

Despite hundreds of bank branches and ATMs closing down, cash withdrawals are on the up as more Aussies worry about the end of cash.

The majority of Aussies are worried about the country moving towards a cashless society, as experts say we will become “functionally cashless” by the end of the decade.

As hundreds of bank branches and ATMs close down across the country, new research has revealed 71 per cent of Aussies are concerned about the shift to a cashless society, with 41 per cent admitting they are “extremely concerned”.

Baby Boomers, regional Australians and lower-income households were the most worried about the move, the research from payments technology company Waave found.

Australian money and CBA ATMs. Cashless Australia concept.
Most Aussies are worried about a cashless society, as hundreds of bank branches and ATMs close down across the country. (Source: Getty/AAP)

Are you worried about Australia going cashless? Contact tamika.seeto@yahooinc.com

Two-thirds of Aussies said they were worried going cashless would exclude certain Aussies and exacerbate economic inequality, while 58 per cent were worried about increased banking and card fees.

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Waave co-founder and CEO Ben Zyl said Aussies were among the highest adopters of digital payments in the world but were “rightly worried” about who was protecting their interests.

“The current digital-payments system has not been built with consumer security or control in mind - people are getting their details stolen, fumbling around with passwords, and paying ridiculous card fees and surcharges,” Zyl said.

“There’s a lot of fear, particularly among those who can’t access alternatives or aren’t confident using technology.”

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Nearly half of Aussies said they would experience “cash nostalgia” and miss the feeling of handling cash in hand. This attitude - along with concerns around going cashless more broadly - was higher among Baby Boomers.

“Whether you’re younger or older, the psychology around cash is unique. We like the feel of it, the sense of control, and we tend to spend less when we pay in cash,” Zyl said.

Reserve Bank data shows Aussies made 30.2 million ATM withdrawals in January, the highest number in a year. More than $9 billion was taken out, the biggest sum since mid-2020.

Australia to be ‘cashless’ by 2030

RMIT associate professor of finance Dr Angel Zhong recently told Yahoo Finance she expected Australia would become “functionally cashless” by 2030, as more consumers move to digital-payment options over cash. But this doesn’t mean cash will be gone completely.

“I’m not saying that we won’t see cash at all and I’m not saying that cash will lose its value,” Zhong said.

“It’s more about the choice of consumers because, when we look at the statistics, we see the rise in consumer preference in using digital payments.

“It’s more about how digital payments are becoming the mainstream payments for consumers. The transition is well underway.”

The share of consumer payments using cash dropped from 70 per cent in 2007 to just 13 per cent in 2022, according to the RBA.

A total of 424 bank branches - or 11 per cent of Australia’s overall branches - closed in the 12 months to June 2023, Australian Prudential Regulation Authority data found. A further 718 ATMs were closed or removed.

The Big Four banks - Commonwealth, Westpac, ANZ and NAB - have all ruled out going cashless.

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