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Coles responds to ‘cashless’ checkout move: ‘Card only payments’

Coles is taking “temporary steps” to prepare for disruptions as Armaguard faces insolvency, but has ruled out going cashless.

Coles is bracing for the decline in cash to impact customers, with a leaked memo revealing staff are being told how to handle converting to 'card only' transactions.

A worker for Coles Liquor - which includes Liquorland, Vintage Cellars and First Choice - lifted the lid on the temporary change that could stop customers paying with cash across the retail giant's supermarkets and liquor stores from Wednesday, March 27 to Friday, April 5.

Armaguard, the main provider of cash transport services, is currently under threat of insolvency as the use of cash plummets and these "industry-wide challenges" will impact Coles, a spokesperson told Yahoo Finance.

Coles supermarket and memo given to staff.
Coles has ruled out going cashless and said the changes would be temporary. (Source: Getty/Reddit)

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All cash collections from Armaguard will be paused during these dates, the memo said.

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During this period, staff have been told to convert the store to “card only payments” if their cash reserves become low and to print and display a “card only” notice at open registers.

If customers ask why they cannot make cash payments, staff have been told to respond: “Our change reserves have been impacted by a decline in cash transactions, along with industry-wide challenges with cash-movement services. All card purchases are still accepted.”

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A Coles spokesperson confirmed that this did not mean the supermarket was going cashless and noted the temporary change would likely only impact a small number of customers.

“We are not transitioning to cashless transactions,” the spokesperson told Yahoo Finance. “Due to industry-wide challenges with cash movements, we are taking some temporary steps to prepare for disruption to Armaguard services. Cash transactions continue to be available in all Coles supermarkets and Coles Liquor stores.”

Australian Banking Association CEO Anna Bligh told a business summit today that the major banks, along with Coles and Woolworths, were “at the pointy end” of a short-term bailout deal with Armaguard.

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

Armaguard
Armaguard is currently under threat of insolvency, with the major banks, Coles and Woolworths offering a lifeline. (Source: AAP)

Businesses go cashless

Coles isn’t the only business to move towards cashless transactions, albeit for different reasons. Several KFC stores in New South Wales are now accepting card payments only. Selected McDonald’s restaurants in Melbourne’s east and south also advised customers that cashless payments were preferred where possible due to security concerns.

Businesses do not legally have to accept cash. However, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says they must be “clear and upfront about the types of payments they accept”.

Around 71 per cent of Aussies are worried about the country shifting towards 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 by Waave found.

Coles store stops giving out cash

Last month, Coles also confirmed it had paused cash-out services at its Kununurra store in Western Australia.

A spokesperson said the East Kimberley store had been inundated with increased demand for cash after a number of banks closed in the town. This is the only store in Australia currently with this policy.

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.

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