Cashless Australia Predicted by 2024

Whether it’s retail, the food industry or professional services, this high-gear shift to a digital economy calls for innovation in products and services, as well as new ways of delivering them. Optimising your payments mix (both online and PoS) is key to sustaining this change.

Besides social distancing becoming the new normal and face masks becoming the world’s most coveted commodity, the COVD-19 pandemic has accelerated another gear shift.

A global cashless economy!

In Australia, cafes and pubs made the move towards QR codes for orders and contactless payments. Retail outlets now have a higher contactless tap and go limit ($200) for transactions without a PIN. From March to October 2020 alone, total online sales in Australia averaged an annual rise of 67.1% according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The combined effect of trends such as these will likely see Australia becoming an effectively cashless society by 2024, reports now say.

Australia has been steadily moving towards a cashless society way before the pandemic struck, and according to the Reserve Bank of Australia, we rank sixth globally for the use of electronic payment methods. Over the course of the last decade, cash has gone from being the dominant form of payment to now being used for less than 25% of transactions Australia-wide. The move away from cash has also been driven by lockdowns affecting small-venue cash transactions and the fear that banknotes could play a role in transmitting the virus.

This carries many advantages for your business. When international travel returns to pre-pandemic levels, digital payments will allow for quick, secure and convenient transactions globally. For small and medium retailers, particularly, this means less time spent sorting out cash for your float before trading hours, and fewer trips to the bank to deposit cash.

What cash-free customers mean for Australian businesses

As consumers increasingly abandon banknotes for digital payments, businesses will have to keep pace. A survey by Capterra in 2020 showed that 97% of respondents plan to use mobile wallets post-COVID-19 and 55% of Australians are comfortable with the idea of a cashless Australia. It’s not all about wallets and contactless payments though. Australians have shown growing interest in cryptocurrencies over the past decade.

Whether it’s retail, the food industry or professional services, this high-gear shift to a digital economy calls for innovation in products and services, as well as new ways of delivering them. The retail sector, for example, has seen an 80% increase in online retail sales since the start of 2020, RBA governor Philip Lowe noted a few months ago. “This innovation and competition will have a positive payoff for our economy. It will take time to realise the full benefits, but as businesses are re-engineered to become more digital we will all see the benefits in terms of higher productivity,” he said.

Here’s more proof that consumers are ready to go cashless: Nearly 90% of Australians will regard your business negatively if you accept only cash as a means of payment, reveals a study commissioned by Mastercard.

Summing up what a cashless Australia by 2024 means for your business:

  • The need to innovate new products and find new ways to deliver them
  • Optimising your payments mix (both online and PoS) to sustain and expand your business in Australia and internationally.
How close are we to cashless Australia?

As the world economy evolves, the conventional doesn’t always prove to be convenient – and cash is no exception. Where cash is risky to hold and reduces transparency in transactions, electronic payments promote financial inclusion and boost economic growth.

Current predictions point towards 2024 being the year when Australia can effectively go cashless, and Australian consumers seem to concur. In fact, 80% of Australians expect that smartphone payments will become the norm by 2022, the Westpac Cash Free Report tells us. This is not entirely surprising considering that 53% of all consumer payments in Australia are cashless already.

In other words, alternative payment technologies such as digital wallets (read Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay), tap-and-go, contactless payments, and wearables are no longer the disruptive – but distant – options they were earlier regarded as.

As a merchant, you’ve likely seen this change take shape as consumers demand payment options beyond just cash and credit cards. If you haven’t, then the launch of the New Payments Platform (NPP) will change the status quo. Read on to know how.

Will the NPP spell the end of cash payments?

The NPP is mutually owned by 13 organisations, including the RBA. The shared mission is to make payments convenient by:

Allowing consumers, businesses and the government to transfer money in real-time – even between different banks.

Enabling money transfers using just the payee’s mobile number or email address or ABN in the case of a business entity.

Being available 24/7, even on weekends and holidays.

As of July 2020, over 5 million PayIDs had been registered by Australian consumers and businesses to receive real-time payments straight into their bank account. This has largely been a result of many small businesses like cafes and hairdressers promoting the use of PayIDs during the pandemic.

No matter how you look at it, the bottomline is that from buying a car to paying for their morning coffee, consumers will soon need almost no cash to go about their everyday activities

If not cash, then what?

It’s safe to say that cash is no longer the dominate retail payment method in Australia. ATM queues are all but disappearing too. RBA data shows that the value and volume of ATM withdrawals has dipped by over 6% for two consecutive years.

Counterbalancing this trend is the growing popularity of alternative payment methods such as debit and credit cards. As a country that boasts among the highest penetrations of PoS devices (39,337 devices per million people) worldwide, the soaring use of plastic money in Australia comes as no surprise.

Add digital wallets, wearable devices such as Apple Watch, and contactless payment tokens to the mix and it’s easy to see why cash is losing the payments battle. What’s more, with over 88% of Australians carrying a smartphone, the time is ripe for merchants to prepare for digital payments on an unprecedented scale.

Cash still a safety net & makes for an inclusive payments landscape

As of 2019, cheques accounted for less than 1% of transactions. The government has spoken in the past of winding up the cheque system at some point in the future, but despite what the figures and research point to, cash is still some way off from meeting the same fate.

While post-pandemic data on how cash use has changed is yet to fully emerge, what is clear is that high cash users are more likely to be in the 65-year age bracket or above, may have lower household income, or live in regional areas with limited internet access. The move to a cashless economy could alienate these persons.

Here are some findings that reveal the gaps that still exist based on age, gender and economic status (source: Capterra survey):

  • More men use digital wallets than women (65% men vs 53% of women).
  • For those aged between 45 and 55 years, cash was the most popular, and even preferred, form of in-person payment.
  • Those in the low income bracket prefer cash payments for ease of use and spend-tracking.

Not to forget that wealthier Australians reportedly look at cash as a dependable asset and form of payment. This fondness for cash was evident when the lockdowns sparked a boom of large cash withdrawals from Australian banks. At the other end of the spectrum, the RBA says that cash still accounts for 45% of small payments ($10 or less).


This article has been republished with permission from Bambora.

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