COVID places cash in the crosshairs as Aussies go digital

2 July 2020

A national survey from Bankwest has placed cash squarely in the crosshairs, with more than a third of Australians stating they intend to use it less or not at all in a post-COVID-19 world.

The survey collected the responses of more than 700 Australians, including customers and non-customers, and suggested the coronavirus could accelerate the decline in use of physical money.

Respondents suggested cash was already on the outer pre-pandemic, with the majority (53%) of people preferring digital options – most (40%) for ease, but some (13%) to avoid handling money.

However, COVID-19 strengthened those views, with 57 per cent remaining unshifted by the pandemic, while more than a third (37%) intended to use physical money less, or not at all.

More than two-in-five (41%) also said they would use ATMs less, or not at all.

The comments aligned with Bankwest data, which showed overall cash withdrawals declined rapidly from the end of March to the end of April to well below pre-COVID levels (~35% below).

Cash withdrawals have since increased but remain about 15 per cent below pre-COVID levels.

Verbatims from respondents helped explain the move away from cash, from personal hygiene concerns, to the budgeting benefits of automatically tracking digital spending.

Others felt it was a trend initiated by businesses, which “no longer accept cash payments”, while many simply preferred the ease offered by digital payment options, such as smartphone wallets.

Bankwest Chief Customer Officer Paul Vivian said: “These responses reinforce trends we’ve seen for more than a decade, but it will be interesting to see how behaviours change after COVID-19.

“The decline in cash use could potentially accelerate because of this pandemic, not just due to consumers’ preferences, but as merchants continue to make it easier to pay without cash.

“However, while a growing number of people might become increasingly averse to cash use through COVID-19, it’s hard to see physical money disappearing from Australia any time soon.

“Cash might become a niche payment method – if it isn’t already – but it remains popular with many people, and a common option for low-value transactions.

“Cash also has no reliance on the internet or power and, because of that, is incredibly stable and an important system for those members of society who are less tech-savvy, or more vulnerable.

“So, while cash’s heyday is certainly a thing of the past and COVID-19 has rapidly moved us further from those times, many people will likely carry it in their wallets for some time yet.”

Survey findings

Which of the following best describes how you used physical currency prior to COVID-19?
   I tried to use cash for as many transactions as I could (%) I always tried to have enough cash in my wallet for everyday expenses (%) I used both cash and card/digital for making payments (%) I rarely used cash, only because using card/digital options was easier (%) I actively avoided using cash (%)
6 10 30 40 13
Have your attitudes towards using cash changed at all due to COVID-19?
   Yes, I now try to use cash more and have larger reserves (%)
Yes, I now try to hold onto a little more cash (%)
No change (%)
Yes, I try to avoid using cash as best I can (%)
Yes, I will not use cash anymore (%)
2 4 57 34
COVID-19 impact on respondents’ attitude towards using ATMs
   Use a lot more (%)
Use somewhat more (%)
About the same (%)
Use somewhat less (%)
Use a lot less (%) I won’t use this channel (%)
2 3 53 18
15 9

About the survey
The survey was conducted by Bankwest Ideas Lab Community, with 708 respondents from across Australia, comprising of customers and non-customers. The Bankwest Ideas Lab Community requires respondents to opt-in for participation and, as such, is not representative of the general population. Data has not been weighted.

About Bankwest
Bankwest’s vision is to deliver brilliant customer experiences that matter and our purpose is to improve the financial wellbeing of our customers and communities. Bankwest provides personal and business banking solutions for more than 1.1 million customers across Australia. Our customers enjoy access to an extensive network of branches and business centres, direct and third-party distribution channels, agencies and electronic banking facilities, as well as 24-hour banking on the telephone, internet and the Bankwest App. Bankwest, a division of Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124 AFSL/Australian credit license 234945.


Media enquiries

If you have a media enquiry, please get in touch.