Will Australia go cashless by 2022?

In late 2016, when Denmark decided that it would no longer print banknotes and proceeded to shut down its last mint, the country silently announced to the world that consumers are well on their way to embracing cashless transactions. 

Look around the world and the picture isn’t too different. Nearly 50% of Americans carry less than US$20 physical cash in their wallets and 9% said they’ve entirely stopped carrying cash. Just across the Atlantic, in the UK, people step out with less than £5 cash every day, says a Mastercard study

Closer to home, in Australia, we might not be ready to bring our mints to a grinding halt just yet but Australians are steadily driving a fundamental shift to a cashless economy. 

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has proof. Payment data released by the country’s top financial institution shows that in 2017 ATM cash withdrawals plunged to their lowest level in 15 years. In Australia, in the past nine years alone, the share of cash in consumer payments has tumbled down to 39% from a substantial 70%.

As a business owner, here’s another thought to chew on. 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. 

We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: online payments are the future!

How Close are We to a Cashless Australia?

Worldwide, cash payments still represent the bulk of retail transactions. MasterCard puts this figure at 85%. However, as the world economy evolves, the conventional doesn’t always prove to be convenient. Where cash is risky to hold and reduces transparency in transactions, electronic payments promote financial inclusion and boost economic growth. 

Australian consumers seem to concur. 

In fact, nearly 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 have 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? 

For the uninitiated, the NPP is a collaborative venture of the RBA and a group of financial companies that will 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 number in the case of a business entity
  • Being available 24/7, even on weekends and holidays 

This means that when the NPP swings into effect on Australia Day, businesses will get paid in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. This will consequently help improve cash flow and faster account reconcilement for your business. With the simplification of linking identifiers such as mobile numbers and ABNs, glitches associated with consumers entering wrong bank account details are expected to be reduced as well. Read more here

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

If not Cash, then What?

It’s official: cash is no longer the dominant 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 84% Australians carrying a smartphone, the time is ripe for merchants to prepare for digital payments on an unprecedented scale.

What Cash-free Customers Mean for Australian Businesses

As consumers increasingly abandon cash for digital payments, businesses will have to keep pace. 

According to a recent report, Australian businesses received 46% less cash payments in 2016 than in 2010. At this rate, cash receivables will form less than 5% of all payments by 2019 for most businesses. At the same time, consumers eagerly switching to online shopping have pushed online retail sales beyond the $20-billion mark in a new record in 2016, says the National Australian Bank. 

For businesses like yours, the only way ahead is to integrate online and alternative payment methods more seamlessly in the grand scheme of things. This means being on top of the latest digital payment trends, from smart checkout design to secure payment processing.  

Regardless of whether you’re taking your first steps in the world of digital payments or taking your online payments journey to the next level, Bambora can help. Just get in touch and we will get right back to you.

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 About the author: Victoria Galloway is Bambora APAC's Technical Copywriter, and has been writing and producing in the payments and eCommerce space for a number of years, both in the UK and Australia

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