Ireland is hitting back against the rise of the cashless society and there are calls for Australia to do the same.
Under Ireland’s new Access to Cash Bill, supermarkets, pharmacies and convenience stores will be forced to carry physical money to ensure people all across the country can access cash whenever they need.
The policy will also require there to be a minimum number of ATMs available across eight geographic regions in Ireland. Banks and ATM providers could be penalised if they don’t stick to the new rules.
Cash Welcome campaign coordinator Jason Bryce told Yahoo Finance Australia needed to implement a similar policy to Ireland.
“Many people are shocked and dismayed when they can't use cash to buy their food and their groceries,” he said. “And, of course, many of us get caught out when the systems go down. There's only one way to ensure that everybody can buy their food, their medicines, their groceries, and that's to ensure that we can always use cash.
“Some people rely on cash, trust cash, they do their budgeting with cash, they take their money out on payday or pension day, and that's their money for the fortnight.”
Bryce said those people need to be able to feel like they're not going to lose that access to cash.
“The people who use cash have rights and we think those rights are enshrined in law. They're not,” he said. “Australia needs to follow Ireland and ensure that people can use cash, our legal tender to buy their food, their essential groceries and their medicines.”
Aussies unable to get cash and ATMs vanishing: Is cashless society coming?
Recent figures showed Australia was fast moving away from using cash and closer towards electronic payments. The Reserve Bank (RBA) said the number of Aussies paying with cash had more than halved in the past three years from 27 per cent to just 13 per cent.
There have been recent anecdotal instances where people have complained about not being able to take out cash in Australia. A man in rural Western Australia recently claimed he drove 130km to take out $300 from his bank and was refused. A woman was similarly fuming after she was told she couldn’t withdraw money from her local bank branch.
University of Technology Sydney professor Harry Scheule, who specialises in finance and core banking systems, isn’t convinced Australia needs to follow in Ireland’s footsteps just yet.
“It's not come to the point yet where you really need to have a law that forces businesses to take cash because people lose out,” he told Yahoo Finance. “I think Australia has always been a remote country and we've always made sure that the countryside is fairly well-serviced.”
But Scheule added that Australia had to have a system in place in the event of outages, which could sometimes render businesses unable to trade.
“We had a blackout for a day, and most shops could not even open because they couldn't process cards,” he said.
The RBA’s data on Australians using cash vs electronic payments revealed a sliver of the population (5 per cent) was sticking to physical money for all purchases because of privacy, security and budgeting reasons.
This portion of Australians said they would find a cashless society a ‘huge inconvenience’, however, the majority of Australians (80 per cent) thought moving solely to electronic payments wouldn’t impact them much.
Eyes will be on Ireland once the Access to Cash Bill takes effect later this year and whether other countries will jump on board.
What you need to know about the use of cash in Australia
Fewer people are using cash due to the convenience of paying with phones, watches and cards.
There isn’t a shortage of cash-withdrawal points, with around 20,000 ATMs plus supermarkets to collect from.
There’s about $100 billion in cash floating around Australia - or 2 billion notes
The government has not indicated cash will be taken out of circulation
The Big Four banks have all ruled out going cashless.
Average cash withdrawal has increased from $180 to $290.
RBA: ATM withdrawals dropped from 77.9 million in December 2008 to 29.7 million in June 2023.
Finder survey: 13 per cent of Aussies never use cash, 44 per cent use it once a week, and 42 per cent once a month or less.