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Keep Cash

National Seniors is calling for cash to be accessible, circulated and accepted, to ensure seniors are not digitally excluded

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Why are we concerned?

"The move towards a ‘cashless society’ is disproportionately impacting seniors who struggle with technology and online banking, highlighting concerns about digital exclusion.

Many seniors are not comfortable transacting online because they're not tech savvy, and they're concerned about online and credit card scams. In many cases, cash is all they're familiar with, and is their only way to make purchases.

Although online facilities are convenient for many of us, digital systems also pose risks during outages and natural disasters, highlighting the importance of cash being an option during emergencies.

Older Australians and First Nations communities, in particular, are also the most vulnerable to scams.

National Seniors is advocating for cash to be accessible, circulated and accepted."

Limited accessibility

There are parts of rural and remote Australia that have poor or no internet access including remote indigenous communities. Some households in these areas rely on satellite phones, or their communities or families share one smartphone between them. Another example of a limitation is accessibility to online banking due to infrastructure damage or power outages. Additionally, recent floods in Australia resulted in cash-only purchases of food and supplies which is another reason to keep cash circulating. Furthermore, there are limitations where victims of family and domestic violence are controlled, exploited, or sabotaged by an abusive family member in accessing credit cards, the internet, and other economic resources.

National Seniors is calling for:

Online/digital transactions to be ‘in addition to’ and ‘not instead of’ cash options – cash is to remain a valid form of currency

Support for seniors, including digital literacy education, such as the ‘Be Connected’ program

Retailers to continue to accept cash, so that seniors and others disproportionately impacted by 'cashless' are not excluded

How you can help

Use more cash: There needs to be more cash transactions in the system for the government, banks, and retailers to take notice and understand that cash is important, especially for the older cohort.

Subscribe to National Seniors Connect Newsletter: To keep updated on our advocacy efforts to keep cash as a valid form of currency, slow down the closure of physical branches, and ensure there is appropriate training to support seniors with digital platforms.

Follow National Seniors on Facebook and LinkedIn​: In addition, share our posts to show your support and keep this important message in front of policy advisors and decision makers.

Why is cash at risk?

There is a decline in cash transactions

There is a decline in cash transactions

The decline in the use of cash had been happening for some time before COVID-19 but was accelerated by the pandemic. By the end of 2022, the landscape of consumer payments had shifted dramatically, with cash transactions dwindling to a mere 13%, a steep decline from the 70% observed in 2007. Interestingly, despite the overall reduction in cash usage, one in five individuals aged 65 and older still predominantly rely on cash for more than 80% of their transactions. In a contrasting trend, approximately 40% of Australians now venture out without their wallets, credit, or debit cards, showcasing a growing reliance on digital payment methods. However, the significance of cash remains evident as, according to a survey conducted by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), 25% of participants acknowledged that a lack of easy access to cash or difficulties in using it would pose a considerable inconvenience. This highlights the nuanced relationship Australians have with cash, balancing between the convenience of digital payments and the enduring need for physical currency.

Bank branches are closing

Bank branches are closing

As the usage of cash continues to wane, consumers are facing a corresponding decrease in the availability of access points to withdraw physical money. Between June 2022 and 2023, a notable reduction was observed with 424 bank branches closing their doors. A significant portion of these closures, numbering 122 branches or 7%, occurred in regional areas, impacting the accessibility of banking services in less urbanized locations. This trend has been ongoing; since 2017, more than a third of bank branches have closed. Highlighting the continuation of this pattern, in January 2024, the National Australia Bank (NAB) announced its plan to close up to 36 branches across New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, and Western Australia, further underscoring the banking industry's shift away from physical branches towards digital banking.

ATM machines are being removed

ATM machines are being removed

Between June 2022 and 2023, the landscape of cash accessibility witnessed a significant downturn, with an 11% decrease in the number of ATMs, resulting in more than 700 cash machines being decommissioned. This reduction in ATMs reflects a broader trend in cash withdrawals, which plummeted from $77.9 million in December 2008 to $29.7 million by June 2023. The decline has been stark since 2017, with the total count of ATMs across Australia dropping from 13,814 in June 2017 to 6,412 by June 2022—a reduction of 7,402 machines or 60% in just five years. Currently, the country hosts fewer than 6,000 ATM machines, marking a significant shift in how Australians can access their cash.

Cheques are being phased out

Cheques are being phased out

The Reserve Bank of Australia has signalled a clear message that the "days are numbered" for cheques, indicating an impending phase-out of this traditional payment method. This announcement is concerning for seniors and others who rely on cheques and are understandably apprehensive about the scarcity of alternative options. In line with this trend, from June 2023, the Commonwealth Bank ceased the creation of new chequing accounts. Furthermore, it has been decided that existing accounts will not automatically receive replacement cheque books, marking a significant shift in the banking landscape and highlighting the gradual move away from traditional payment options.

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Member experiences

"Why would we want to give up cash? Just last week, three shops were unable to trade because their EFTPOS went down, or their WIFI wasn't working. The only person who could pay for their groceries was me because I had cash."

"Mobile telephones are unable to be used by people with vision impairment. They are expensive and far too small to read the screen, they are also an invasion of privacy, tracking your every movement."

- Helly

"I am concerned with the development of a cashless society in Australia. There are an ever-increasing number of businesses that will only accept cash including government departments and business enterprises. Recently, Australia Post opened a post office in Manly with no cash facilities, which given that seniors are more likely to send letters than younger generations, is a real smack in the face to them."

"Another aspect of the move to being cashless is the relentless move by the banks to not only close branches but also remove ATMs. Added to this, the banks charge a fee for a 'tap and go' transaction. Surely, it is cheaper for businesses and banks to not have to deal with cash, so why should they charge a fee for a cost-saving?"

"For seniors and those living in areas with unreliable internet and telcos and recent data breaches (which I’ve been personally affected by), the shift towards a completely cashless society can pose significant challenges and risks."

"Seniors, as well as those living with disability, may struggle with the transition to a cashless society with digital payment methods and technology. Many older adults are more comfortable using cash for their transactions as it’s a tangible, reliable, and familiar form of payment."


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Join National Seniors Australia today and receive discounts on everyday essentials and more

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