Tap and gone: Aussies waving cash goodbye

Australia’s age of paper payments is in definite decline with tap and go technology helping cards become the most frequent way to pay and ensuring Aussie wallets continue to get thinner.

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According to new data from the Reserve Bank’s triennial consumer payments survey, while the use of cards has doubled in little under a decade, the big change in the way Australians pay has been the rise and rise of contactless, ‘tap and go,’ transactions.

Over 60 per cent of all point-of-sale card payments were contactless last year, the RBA said.

By monitoring participants’ payments details over a week, the survey provides a snapshot of the fundamental changes Australians are making in their use of cash and their digitisation as card-carrying consumers.

The bank has found tap and go cards are now largely ubiquitous, with 85 per cent of consumers waving them on a daily basis compared with two-thirds of respondents in 2013.

With around 33 per cent of all point-of-sale payments contactless in 2016 – compared to 11 per cent in 2013 – the way people pay is shifting and cash has become the first casualty of convenience.

Cash purchases have evaporated from 69 per cent in 2007 to just 37 per cent in 2016 – and the Aussie wallet is on average $15 lighter.

According to the RBA, last year an Australian wallet contained $40, down from $55 in 2013.

Consequently, Australians also aren’t hitting the ATM as frequently.

In all four of the previous surveys, Australian’s ‘topped-up’ their cash one-and-a-half times a week, now they don’t even do it once a week.

The central bank said the increasing use of cards for cheaper, daily transactions – 40 per cent of in-person payments under $20 in 2016, compared with just 10 per cent in 2007 – reflects the normalisation of contactless technology throughout the economy.

“Cards are now the most commonly used payment method for all but the lowest-value transactions and as a result, the median value of card payments at the point of sale continued to decline from $40 in 2007 to $28 in 2016,” the bank said.