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Australians embracing digital payments

The Milestones Report released today by the Australian Payments Clearing Association, the payments industry self-regulatory body, shows that as with cheques, Australian consumers are increasingly giving up cash in favour of cards, mobiles and online digital payments.

But unlike cheques, cash will not disappear as a payment method in the digital economy, remaining as a default method if nothing else is available.

Today’s Report on Australia’s progress on transitioning payments to the digital economy provides a special focus on cash. It draws from APCA-commissioned research The Evolution of Cash: An Investigative Study developed by RFi Consulting which has also been released today.

A bar chart showing Percentage of payment transactions by payment method 2005-2018

Percentage of payment transactions by payment method 2005-2018

The new research shows that Australians are using less cash as the uptake of contactless and other electronic payments continues to gain pace. The number of cash payments has declined 5% since 2005 – down to an estimated 11.7 billion in 2013 – reflecting the changing way in how consumers pay.

This decline is predicted to accelerate, dropping a further 20% over the next few years before it plateaus in 2018. The decline in cash use is supported by recent figures released by the Reserve Bank of Australia. In February 2014 there were 57.3 million cash withdrawals from ATMs – down from 60.0 million in February 2013. The value of these withdrawals dropped 9 percent to $10.8 billion. As the economy grows, cash needs will decline as digital methods dominate new activity.

APCA CEO Chris Hamilton said: “We will always have a need for cash, but the take-out here is that cash won’t be the first or only choice for making any payment, regardless of what it’s for. Australians love their “tap and go” cards, and we are going to see lots of competition and innovation in mobile payments in the next few years. Consumers are going to find that cash is not their first choice any more, even for convenience items like a coffee. Increasingly, they may also find that automated, super-convenient consumer services will accept a wide range of digital payments – but not cash.”

The RFi study also shows that the share of cash within all of the payment transactions made in Australia has dropped from 73% in 2005 to 59% in 2013, with a further share decline forecast to 43% in 2018.

RFi Consulting CEO Lance Blockley said: “As the Australian economy continues to grow, so does the total number of payments being made. The fact that the number of cash payments is now decreasing means that this form of payment is not only missing out on this overall market growth but is being displaced from where it was previously used. Australian consumers and businesses are adopting new electronic methods based on a variety of factors, including speed, convenience and security.”

Other key points in today’s Milestones Report include:

  • The rapid decline of cheque use in Australia continues with a 13.3% drop in 2013, compared with 12.5% in 2012.
  • Cheque values remain stable, suggesting that cheques are predominantly used for higher value business payments, rather than personal payments.
  • Industry and government initiatives to ease the transition from cheques to digital payments continue to gather pace. These include the New Payments Platform, SuperStream and E-Conveyancing.

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