The use of cash has more than halved in the past three years, with its decline accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, new analysis released by the Reserve Bank has revealed.
The share of cash transactions paid by consumers plummeted from 27 per cent in 2019 to just 13 per cent in 2022, according to the findings of a new survey published by the central bank on Monday.
Cash use has decline markedly in recent years. In 2007, more than two in every three payments were made using cash.
Across all demographic groups the use of cash has fallen, although the declines are most pronounced among those who traditionally use cash more frequently, including the elderly, those in regional areas and people on low incomes.
Declining cash use was “brought forward” by the pandemic, the RBA’s analysis found, due to hygiene concern with handling cash.
“If cash use had followed its pre-pandemic trend, we would have expected the share of the number of in-person transactions made with cash to be 6 percentage points higher in 2022,” the report states.
The continued decline in the use of cash is also reducing the number of access points available for consumers to withdraw it.
Figures released by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority show the number of ATMs across Australia fell from 13,814 in 2017 to 6412 in June 2022.
Cash usage has generally been replaced with card payments, the RBA research found.
Consistent with lower cash use for transactions, fewer Australians held cash in their wallets compared with 2019. The share of people having no cash on themselves rose to 29 per cent in 2022, up from 22 per cent in 2019.
Other payment methods, including digital wallets and buy now, pay later services, were becoming more well known but only made up a small share of total payments.
The report also found that even as the number of consumers holding cryptocurrency surged, just 2 per cent of survey respondents had used the digital currency to make a payment.