Australia set for cash-free economy within a decade

25 March 2019

Young Australians believe the country is heading for a cash-free society, with a survey finding 20-30-year-olds on average no longer carry physical money and deem it will not exist in 10 years.

And in a further nail in the banknote coffin, more than a third (37.6%) of respondents considered cash already redundant – a view held by nearly half (49.1%) of Generation Y. 

The findings were part of a Bankwest survey of Australia's two largest population hubs – Victoria and New South Wales – and revealed strong and varied generational opinions on physical cash.

More than half of those surveyed believed Australia would be cash-free in a decade, a view most strongly held by Generation Y (58%).

Baby Boomers (54-73yo) remained most tied to physical money, with more than two thirds reporting they always carried cash, compared with just a third of their younger counterparts.

The findings were also reflected in the hip-pocket, with Baby Boomers ($82.20) on average carrying the most cash on a typical day, compared to Gen X ($62.70) and Gen Y ($51.70).

The differing attitudes could be proving problematic at social events, with almost 90 percent of Baby Boomers preferring to split a bill with cash, compared to 50 percent of Gen Y respondents.

The move towards a cash-free society was also seen in people's attitudes towards cash-only merchants, with almost two-thirds of respondents labelling it frustrating.

Australia's two largest cities were most divided on digital payments, with more than a third of Sydneysiders using their smart phone, compared to less than a quarter of Melbournians.

Bankwest Executive General Manager – Customer Solutions and Insights, Pieter Vorster, said: "Customer needs and expectations are changing rapidly, and these results highlight that.

"Those changes are driven by digital innovation and new and existing competitors and show why businesses everywhere are prioritising investment in digital experiences for their customers."

Survey Findings

   Gen Y (%) Gen X (%) Baby Boomers (%) Overall (%)
Australia will be cash-free in a decade 58.3 50.0 46.9 53.3
Cash is already redundant 49.1 32.7 20.8 37.6
Only carry cash for a specific reason 26.9 13.8 7.7 18.6
Never carry cash 7.6 2.0 1.5 4.6
Annoyed by cash-only shops 75.2 59.4 47.3 64.0
Use smartphone and/or wearable payment device for everyday purchases 39.0 24.0 12.7 28.4
About Bankwest
Bankwest provides personal and business banking solutions for more than 1.1 million retail and business customers across Australia. Bankwest customers enjoy access to an extensive network of stores and business centres, direct and third party distribution channels, agencies and electronic banking facilities, as well as 24-hour telephone and internet banking. Bankwest is a division of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

About the report
This data contained in this release was captured as part of a wider survey conducted by Bankwest. Research was carried out by CoreData via an online survey of Victoria and New South Wales residents. The survey was designed, with input and approval from Bankwest, prior to fieldwork commencing. All fieldwork was conducted from 5-11 February 2019. CoreData was responsible for distributing and hosting the survey, which was sent to Victorian and New South Wales residents between the age of 18 and 70. A total of 1,001 responses were completed.

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