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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Carberry

The Future of Cash

With many stores now only accepting card payments due to COVID-19, and digital wallets becoming more popular, what’s the future of cash? We look at the trends around cash payments in Australia and what they mean for consumers and businesses.


Even before the pandemic, cash was losing favour in Australia. In 2019, less than a third of us (27%) of us paid with banknotes and coins, with most opting for the convenience and speed of a card. About 80% of in-person card payments were contactless, and one in 20 Australians used their mobile phone as a digital wallet (1).

Then 2020 happened – and as the world embraced social distancing, hand sanitiser and face masks, the future of cash became even less certain.

COVID-19 and cash

During lockdown, we stayed home and ordered groceries, takeaway dinners, clothing and even furniture online. When we did venture out, many stores only offered contactless payments to help prevent the virus’ spread. Since the pandemic’s start, non-bank contactless payments like ApplePay and Google Wallet also increased significantly, especially among younger Australians (2). Meanwhile, the number of ATMs has fallen 20% in the last four years (3).

So, does this mean cash is on the way out?

Cash trends

Physical cash may be waning in popularity – but there’s still reluctance to let it go altogether. While Australians have embraced new payment technologies, a survey by ING found that, overwhelmingly, Australians don’t want to go completely cashless (4). Interestingly, the amount of cash in circulation in Australia jumped by $11 billion to $94 billion in 2020. This may be partly due to people stockpiling cash at home – perhaps fearful of a serious economic downturn (5).

The benefits of going cashless

While cash isn’t likely to disappear just yet, it’s possible we could see a cashless society in the future – bringing with it several benefits for society at large. Going cashless could make it easier to identify and curtail corruption. It would make it harder to launder money and put a stop to cash-businesses that may avoid tax or underpay staff.

For businesses, a cashless society would make it easier to gain insights from transaction data into their customers’ buying habits, help prevent employee fraud, and reduce the risk of theft.

For consumers, digital banking and payments can be easier and more convenient than using cash. And an electronic record of transactions can provide a more accurate picture of financial behaviour, making it easier to track spending, budget and provide proof of purchase.

The risks of a cashless society

However, there are potential downsides to a cashless society too – with some missing out on the benefits it provides. For example, elderly people may find it hard to adapt to using cards. And disadvantaged groups, like the homeless or those without bank accounts, would also struggle to get by without cash.

Probably the key concern is privacy – with every digital transaction leaving a record. What’s more, hackers could break into people’s accounts, potentially taking all their savings. Finally, a power or internet outage can stop a business from accepting payments – while a dead phone battery makes a digital wallet impossible to access.

Managing your money

Whether you prefer cash or digital transactions, it makes sense to take care of your money. We can help you better manage your hard-earned cash – so you can make the most of it, whatever the future brings.

Need help managing your money?

Book a free initial consultation with Wealth Adviser Craig Holly. You can book a time with Craig here, or give Verve Group a call on (08) 8120 4877.


1 Reserve Bank of Australia (2019), How Australians Pay Snapshot – 2019 Consumer Payments Survey, Reserve Bank of Australia website, accessed 3 November 2020.

2 Roy Morgan (2020), Apple Pay drives contactless mobile payment increase; older Australians might need a nudge, Roy Morgan website, accessed 3 November 2020.

3 Australian Payments Network (2020), Device statistics: Number of ATMs and POS devices in Australia, Australian Payments Network website, accessed 3 November 2020.

4 Will Martin (2017), An economist at one of Europe’s biggest banks tells us why there’s ‘no need’ for a fully cashless society, Business Insider Australia website, accessed 3 November 2020.

5 Jack Derwin (2020), Cash use has plummeted, but Australians are holding more of it than ever. Here is why we’re not going cashless, Business Insider Australia website, accessed 3 November 2020.

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