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Cash access vital ‘to resist agenda of banks, supermarkets’


Demand for the legal tender remains undiminished and many vulnerable people rely on it, lobby group says.

By Philip King 10 minute read

Moves by the big banks and supermarket giants to limit access to cash could leave millions of vulnerable people stranded, according to lobby group CashWelcome.org, and there should be a right to pay using the legal tender.

The group said Macquarie, Westpac, NAB, CBA and ANZ as well as Woolworths and Coles were cutting withdrawal services as part of a “cashless agenda”.

CashWelcome campaign spokesperson Jason Bryce said demand for cash was undiminished with 29–30 million ATM withdrawals a month, according to the RBA.

However the number of ATMs had fallen below the level of 2006, at 25,000 machines, and Australians “continue to withdraw cash and continue to support the right to choose cash as a way to pay”.

“Millions of Australians trust and rely on cash every day,” he said. “Now Aussies face more restrictions on accessing cash and new limitations on where they can use cash – our legal tender.

“All Australians need to be able to get cash and use cash to buy their food and essential groceries when they choose.

“Banks and supermarkets enjoy a central place in our economy and the high profits that go with that. They have a clear responsibility to ensure everyone can buy their food using cash.”

He said the phasing out of all cash services in Macquarie Bank branches and limitations on cash-out services at Woolworths were examples of the trend.

The RBA’s 2022 Consumer Payments Survey shows declining cash use since the pandemic, with its share of transactions halving to 16 per cent over the three years to 2022.

It said the decline in cash use was particularly pronounced for smaller payments and among groups that traditionally used cash more frequently – such as the elderly, low-paid or those in regional areas.

However, the survey said increasing concerns over privacy and security continued to drive demand for cash, and “some Australians would be negatively affected if cash was difficult to access or if shops stopped accepting it as a payment method”.

The number who said they would experience a “major inconvenience” or “genuine hardship” if cash was hard to access or use had remained stable at about 25 per cent since 2019, the Consumer Payments Survey shows.

Mr Bryce said CashWelcome, which works with the ATM Industry Association, started a petition asking for a “banking and cash guarantee” that had already attracted 125,000 signatures.

“Some Australians rely on cash, understand cash and budget with cash,” he said.

“The cashless agenda of banks and supermarkets is cruelly leaving many Australians out. People in rural and regional communities are particularly impacted.”


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Philip King

Philip King


Philip King is editor of Accountants Daily and SMSF Adviser, the leading sources of news, insight, and educational content for professionals in the accounting and SMSF sectors.

Philip joined the titles in March 2022 and brings extensive experience from a variety of roles at The Australian national broadsheet daily, most recently as motoring editor. His background also takes in spells on diverse consumer and trade magazines.

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