For better or worse, COVID-19 could forever change the way you pay

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Nearly half of all purchases made in person are now done contactless, according to new data, with shoppers and sellers afraid of germs on cash during the coronavirus pandemic.

Credit card company Mastercard has reported a 44 per cent decrease in the use of cash when making purchases in person since the COVID-19 outbreak began.

More than half (52 per cent) of Aussies are concerned about the ‘dirtiness’ of cash as a result of COVID-19. One in five (21 per cent) said the risk of infection transmission has led to their total elimination of cash usage.

Eight in 10 (79 per cent) of Australians say contactless payments are a cleaner way to pay.

Almost nine in 10 (88 per cent) of contactless payments involved debit or credit cards and around a quarter use their mobile phone to pay.

The pandemic has led to a huge behavioural shift in payment methods, with 94 per cent of Aussies having made contactless purchases at the grocery store, 70 per cent doing so at a pharmacy and 56 per cent at any other retailer.

“Consumer behaviour around payments has seen a shift since COVID-19, which has transformed the daily lives of Australians,” said Mastercard division president Australasia Richard Wormald.

“Australians are looking for a safe, clean and secure way to pay, which has seen contactless card and device transactions surge.

“It is clear that this is the preferred way to pay, now, and for the future.”

Almost eight in 10 (79 per cent) people worldwide and more than nine in 10 (91 per cent) in the Asia Pacific are now using tap-and-go payments for regular purchases. Globally, almost half (46 per cent) say contactless payments will now be a permanent fixture for them.

“The fact that three in four people intend to keep using tap-and-go after the pandemic is a strong sign that consumers see the long-term benefits of having a safer, cleaner way to pay, checking out faster and being more socially responsible,” said Mastercard executive vice-president, products and innovation, Asia Pacific, Sandeep Malhotra.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends the use of bank cards over cash to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Cashless payment is also encouraged by supermarket giants Aldi, Woolworths and Coles on their websites.

According to a CHOICE report, microbiology professor Peter White believes the virus could remain infectious on objects such as polymer banknotes for “anywhere between six and 24 hours depending on the temperature and humidity”.

Going cashless may help reduce the spread of the virus, but some money experts are concerned the increased use of credit cards will lead to money mismanagement and greater debt.

“The Australian government official medical advice is to ‘tap to pay where possible instead of using cash’ – this advice will drive increased use in credit and store cards,” said Financial Mindfulness chief Andrew Fleming.

“A lot of people have seen their incomes slashed, and they are being asked to reach for their cards to pay for goods and services.

“In January 2020, just before the crisis, there was $42.6 billion owing on credit cards with $28.4 billion accruing interest. This situation, with lower incomes and increased use of cards – is a perfect storm for millions of Australians to deepen the financial holes they were already in.”

Australia’s increased use of digital payment methods could be the nail in the old-fashioned cash coffin, credit card expert Roland Bleyer told Nest Egg.

He claims there are a number of reasons why this could be the case, noting that in the past month alone, “there has been a definite shift in the way we pay for things, with merchants moving away from cash – and the germs it may carry – declaring their preference for card payments instead” and that “as coronavirus continues to assert its influence over what we can and can’t do, Aussies are being encouraged to use contactless more than ever as a way to slow the spread”.

A number of stores already no longer accept cash. Tellers in stores that haven’t made the switch wear gloves to handle cash, or state that a contactless payment method is preferred.

“I think we will see more and more businesses refusing to accept cash. This is going to impact on certain areas of society, the aged sector and those less fortunate – more than others,” said Mr Bleyer.

He says there are more benefits to going cashless than reducing germ transmission, such as lowering the risk of petty theft at the cash register; more traceable business records for tax purposes, and that it’s simply a faster method of payment.

Mr Bleyer also busts the myth that a merchant must accept cash.

“[There is a] widespread belief that because official Australian coins and banknotes are legal tender, merchants must accept them as payment,” he said.

“However, the law sees it somewhat differently. According to the Currency Act, merchants have certain rights when it comes to accepting payments,” he said, adding that a merchant already has the right to limit the dollar amount in coins a customer may use to make a purchase.

He acknowledged that older Australians may have a hard time dealing with the switch to contactless payments.

“For many Aussies, especially those of the older generation, cash is still king,” he said.

“They like having cash, they like using cash, and they don’t particularly like the idea of having to use anything but cash when cash is still ‘legal tender’.”

He expects the law will protect businesses that wish to make a permanent switch to contactless payments.

“According to the Reserve Bank of Australia, merchants are ‘at liberty to set the commercial terms upon which payment will take place’ before the purchase, and refusal to accept payment in legal tender banknotes and coins is not unlawful,” he said.

“So, as long as the merchant has a sign at the counter that lays out these terms, which is visible to customers before the point of purchase, it is within its rights not to accept cash.”

Will you manage once cash is dead?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?

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75 Comments

Total Comments: 75
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    This was the whole point of the pandemic….. KILL CASH…………. the Govts and banks love it….

    Just imagine, drug dealers & other nefarious persons will now have to accept card only…. Govt and banks hand in hand to pry into your life and people are worried about the covid 19 APP..

    Where are the civil liberty people now crying out load about cash dis- appearing

  2. 0
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    I haven’t used cash for years, don’t know what the fuss is about.

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      As they say , it is a matter of horses for courses . It all depends what size purchases one makes . The wife and I are Pensioners – our purchases are mainly small amounts and we like to know just what we have left in our purse at the end of the day or week . We are frightened paying by Credit card and becoming victims of all the scammers out there that are increasing in numbers and almost never found by the law .
      As we are also obviously , just about in the true sense of the word , counting every cent we spend , we have always found one can bargain on a price with Cash and help with the tight budget .
      I think there is more good reason in banning cards altogether than banning Cash .From day one of their introduction , I knew it would lead to a lot of people spending money they do not really have .It may have even be a way to boost the economy because it was made too attractive to spend big and end up in misery .

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      Good for you – but not everyone feels the same and it should be a choice – not foisted upon us.

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      Good for you – but not everyone feels the same and it should be a choice – not foisted upon us.

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      Ted – how do you buy a paper or a beer in the pub? I know it’s possible in some places but the publicans do not like it that much. Aldi charges for using tap cards as well, won’t worry me but my mates take it as offence to charge so they insist on cash.

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      I hate surcharges on using a card. Perhaps this will lead to surcharges being made illegal. It’s just another tax added by the merchant or the bank.

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      Mariner – I haven’t touch cash for many months now, no need with cards. I don’t waste money on newspapers (the net is one big newspaper), I don’t go to the pub, I buy coffees with a card and Aldi DON’T charge when using your bank account linked card (not a credit card).

      I just use my credit card everywhere except Aldi where I use my Comm Bank Keycard, no fees, no interest and a record of every transaction is kept if needed.

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      Greg – noticed that at Aldi as well. Overriding the tap card but then you need to touch those 4 buttons anyway, about the same as touching cash. My notes are always clean anyway, been in Africa for 8 years. Shops there display “no cash accepted taken out of underwear”. Was quite common at the time. Well I do not mind the 0.5% on the total. When you spend $100 you do not really worry about the 50c.

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    It is illegal for any merchant, within some limits, to refuse to accept cash as payment for goods as cash remains legal tender in Australia. Limits include making large payments using multiple coins eg 5 cent pieces to pay a $20 bill. We will see cash around for a long time to come. Don’t forget, many of those advocating cashless payments are in businesses that make money from cashless transactions eg credit card companies. Cash under the mattress will remain as the preferred saving method for some Aussies for many years yet!

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      We shall see, 5 years at the most so all you pensioners rorting by the large amounts cash under the mattress or tins in the backyard, better spend up big and get rid of it before it’s worthless…

      or your made to deposit it or lose it!!!!!!!!!!!

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      panos – it should read “inside” the mattress not under! Most of the people saving dosh bought gold a long time ago (or US$). Pointless putting our currency under anything, it’s constantly losing value. Most tradies are just too happy to take cash any day for day-to-day jobs. No paper work, straight into the pocket and a discount for the pensioner.

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      Buggsie – not correct. A business CAN deny you using cash – it is NOT illegal. See the following page – https://banknotes.rba.gov.au/legal/legal-tender/

      States clearly – Australian banknotes and coins do not necessarily have to be used in transactions and refusal to accept payment in legal tender banknotes and coins is not unlawful.

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      Mariner, you are wrong. The accepted phrase is “under the mattress.” Might be a good idea to Google check your idea before you correct someone else.

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      &Maggie – I know the phrase alright, no worries! But today people are putting their money inside the mattress because everyone looks UNDER the mattress first. I do know a lot of oldies, Maggie.

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      Good on those morons here who are reinforcing the idea that pensioners might be keeping some cash in or under the bed.

      No doubt it’s best we keep this idea to the forefront in the minds of crims prone to breaking into homes of older people and forcing them to disclose the whereabouts of this ‘mythical stash’ they might be keeping.

      Again – total morons!

  4. 0
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    It will make everything more expensive. My local newsagent/mild bar won’t do EFTPOS under $10.. And takeaways don’t like card as transactions are taxable, haha

  5. 0
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    I’ll continue to use cash. I like to be able to see how much I’m spending. With a card it’s easy to lose track, and then get a shock when you receive the bill. I only use my card for direct debits, petrol and anything costing over $100.

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    pay by card is all well and good until there is no POWER to operate the darn machines. hows it all going to work after a bushfire or cyclone wipes out power lines? The belief that money is somehow dirty is hilarious. The only dirty thing about money is those that would limit your rights to use it. Has someone told the virus and bugs that they are not allowed on the card, the card machine, or indeed the receipt you are handed, or your phone, etc? Talk about a lazy generation gradually drip-fed to believe whatever the government wants to implement and control you. There are none so blind as those that cannot see.

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      Have you not noticed that when there is a power outage, cash doesn’t work either because cashiers cannot either open the tills or are too stupid to do a bit of arithmetic.

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      I agree, Mootnell

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      Spent a full day in Airlie Beach during a power cut, I had a great time with cash, plastic card holders saved their money that day. Funny the ship we were on had a cash machine on board but people thought it would be cheaper in town.

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    Yes and the sheeples will happily comply – until the day comes again when the power goes down for protracted periods (thinking bushfires, floods etc) – the poor people who’ve been put on the Indue card scam have nothing and all those, like many of us, who prefer cash anyway, will be stranded without any money – NOPE – not for me. I will use cash whenever and wherever I can.

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    Yes and the sheeples will happily comply – until the day comes again when the power goes down for protracted periods (thinking bushfires, floods etc) – the poor people who’ve been put on the Indue card scam have nothing and all those, like many of us, who prefer cash anyway, will be stranded without any money – NOPE – not for me. I will use cash whenever and wherever I can.

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    It will be fine until the banks fail and take all our savings or start charging to hold the money and they will.

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      Happens where I come from, Rae. My sister lives in Zurich and their banks charge you 0.75% for holding your cash in their bank. Deposit boxes come cheaper but there are not many available any more.

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    Don’t know how my daughter will cope as she is black listed from all credit cards etc.

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      I don’t have a credit card, I have a debit card which just covers the money in my account, and doesn’t give me credit

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