Do you have any cash in your wallet right now? When was the last time you used an ATM?

A new report predicts cash will mostly be phased out within just three years in Australia as we ditch notes and coins for card-only transactions.

According to the latest annual Global Payments Report by fintech company FIS, Australia will be mostly cashless within a few years, with the research projecting only around 2 per cent of transactions in Australia will be cash by 2024, a large drop from 8.3 per cent in 2020.

Concerns around COVID-19 transmissions with cash transactions during the coronavirus pandemic has sped up our move to card-only payments.

While cash made up more than 20 per cent of transactions worldwide in 2002, cash transactions fell by 4.4 per cent globally between 2019 and 2020.

"The pandemic accelerated the decline of cash by over three years, exceeding in 2020 our previous projection for 2023," the report states. "COVID-19 is accelerating the pace of cash's decline faster than even the most bullish projections."

The pandemic has quickened the move to cashless payments due to fears over COVID transmissions. Picture: iStock
The pandemic has quickened the move to cashless payments due to fears over COVID transmissions. Picture: iStock

Even though there's evidence to suggest a steep move towards a cashless society, Woolworths' trial of completely cashless stores from June 2020 to March 2021 was met with customer backlash, prompting the major supermarket to end the controversial trial in its inner-city Metro stores in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

"We have listened to your feedback and are now accepting both cash and card payments," the supermarket retailer told Australians this week.


The FIS report also predicts Australia will continue to embrace "buy now, pay later" products such as Afterpay, with the marketshare of these transactions predicted to double from 9.5 per cent in 2020 to almost 20 per cent in 2024.

Sweden, Denmark and Hong Kong are projected to be taking the lead as cashless nations, with Australia following closely in fourth place.

Last month, the Reserve Bank of Australia reported that cash withdrawals are not plummeting, even though the share of cash payments has dropped.

The 34.7 million ATM withdrawals made in December 2020, worth $9 billion, indicates there's still ongoing support for cash.

 

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe said in December he doubted Australia would become a completely cashless society, adding that cash still plays an important role as an emergency payment method, although he admitted cash could become rarer.

Meanwhile, the ATO revealed on Monday that businesses operating in cash deals accounted for up to $50 billion in unpaid taxes.

Consumer affairs journalist and spokesperson for the Cash Welcome campaigns Jason Bryce said cash is king in Australia, after his petition, which calls for government legislation to ensure the right to access and use cash, attracted more than 10,000 signatures from Aussies.

"Cash is the most reliable way to pay," he said. "Consumers don't want a cashless society.

"It's time for Australia to protect cash," he added.

"Without cash in our pockets or without supermarkets and retailers that accept cash, consumers can be left without food and essentials."


Originally published as Question reveals Australia's cash issue


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