Australia likes cash

Despite our international reputation as a bunch of uncouth, cricket ball sanding, barbeque loving bogans, Australians are actually incredibly tech-savvy and we have consistently led the world in the adoption of new technologies. One area where this is particularly apparent is in the realm of finance. Not only was Australia the first country in the world to use polymer banknotes, but we were among the first countries to widely adopt contactless payment (e.g. tap-and-go, mobile payments, etc.)

Indeed, Australia has hit a contactless payment ‘saturation point’, Westpac reported in 2017 – over 90% of all Visa card payments made in Australia are contactless, a trend that’s continued to grow, particularly in 2020. Contactless payments have been touted as a more hygienic way of transacting compared to handling cash, swiping a card or writing cheques during These Unprecedented Times.

Not that many people write cheques these days. According to the Reserve Bank of Australia, 52% of payments are made by car (of which 66% are contactless), 37% by cash and only 0.2% by cheque. When credit cards were first introduced, cash often still beat card for convenience, especially when it came to small purchases. But now that contactless payment methods are so widespread and so accessible, credit has supplanted cash as the go-to for small payments. You can pay for anything from a chiro visit to a coffee in seconds and not have to worry about carrying around change.

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The cashless society from an ethical point of view

The debate about the move towards a cashless society has been at the center of the scene for several years, now. Various angles have been taken by economists, politicians, banking institutions and sociologists. Beyond the technicalities of the debate, lies the question of freedom, of inter-citizen solidarity and of governmental responsibility. The debate cannot remain in the hands of financial specialists, it is first and foremost an ethical, political and societal issue.

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