‘Already well underway’: Australia’s transition to a cashless society no longer ‘just a possibility’

Oct 18, 2023
While the shift towards a cashless society appears unstoppable, equipped with the right guidance and strategies, this transformation can be an empowering and seamless endeavour. Source: Getty Images.

The notion of a cashless society is rapidly becoming a reality in Australia and experts are now saying it’s more than just a possibility, it’s “well underway”.

In today’s digital age, Australians are swiftly embracing modern payment methods, rendering traditional cash less and less relevant.

The move toward a cashless society, once seen as a futuristic idea, is happening much faster than expected and RMIT associate professor in finance, Dr. Angel Zhong believes we could be doing away with cash by the end of the decade.

“The shift towards a cashless society in Australia isn’t just a possibility, it’s already well underway,” Zhong explained in a piece for The Conversation.

“The convenience of digital transactions has become irresistible for consumers and businesses and has led to the sector eclipsing traditional payment methods.”

A recent report from the Australian Banking Association shone a light on the rapid rise of digital payments.

Payments made with digital wallets on smartphones and watches have surged from $746 million in 2018 to over $93 billion in 2022 with cash now making up only 13 per cent of payments in Australia, down from 70 per cent in 2007.

Digital wallets are popular with people of all ages, but it’s young Australians aged 18 to 29 who use them the most, with two-thirds making purchases with digital wallets.

Interestingly, around 40 per cent of Australians feel comfortable leaving home without their physical wallets, credit cards, or debit cards, as long as they have their mobile devices with digital wallets.

With such drastic shifts in how people view the use of cash and traditional payments, Zhong believes that Australia will enter into a cashless society by 2030, however, the Commonwealth Bank expects the shift to occur much sooner with their estimates placing Australia going cashless as early as 2026.

While the idea might raise concerns, Zhong reassures the public that despite the digital wave, cash is not on the verge of vanishing entirely.

“It doesn’t mean that there’s no bank notes at all. No one should be panicking that your banknotes will no longer carry value,” she told Nine News.

“If you look at the statistics about banknotes in circulation, it actually remains at around 20 per cent, according to the report, over the years.

“The meaning of cashless society is more about the way that we transact, it adds to the convenience of our day-to-day lives.

“There is always a place for cash but the majority will be making payments with digital wallets.”

While the shift towards a cashless society appears unstoppable, equipped with the right guidance and strategies, this transformation can be an empowering and seamless endeavour.

Beginning with familiar transactions and leaning on the support of friends and family, these invaluable tips will pave the way for a smooth transition into the realm of regular digital payments.

  • Start with familiar transactions: Begin by using cashless payment methods for familiar transactions, such as grocery shopping or paying bills. This approach allows you to gain confidence with everyday purchases before venturing into more complex transactions.
  • Educate yourself: Take advantage of online tutorials, guides, and workshops that explain the ins and outs of digital payment platforms. Familiarise yourself with the features, security measures, and terms of service to make informed decisions.
  • Seek support from tech-savvy friends or family: If you encounter any difficulties during the transition, reach out to tech-savvy friends or family members for guidance and support. They can offer valuable insights and help troubleshoot any issues.
  • Practice patience and perseverance: Transitioning to a cashless society may take time, so be patient with yourself as you adapt to new methods. Embrace the learning process and remember that practice makes perfect.
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