How phones have replaced cash, credit and loyalty cards

I had an embarrassing situation recently when having dinner with some friends where they paid for the meal, and I tried to pay for my share with cash.

The look of disdain on their faces at the very sight of cash provided me with a glimpse of how far behind the times I had fallen. Just put the money in my account she requested, like the very notion of still having cash was ridiculous and quaint.

According to the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) in 2007, cash was used in 69 per cent of all purchases. However, according to the most recent figures (2019), it was used in just 27 per cent of purchases.

I understand that COVID has very much changed the willingness to use banknotes, and I rarely pay with cash for my own purchases, but I am still a heavy user of my credit card to pay for most of my purchases. Now even this is becoming a thing of the past.

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I would still feel lost without my wallet in my pocket, but my wife constantly leaves the house these days without her purse, happy to make most of her purchases using her phone.

She is not alone either.

RBA figures show that the use of contactless mobile payments has surged. Their latest figures only show up to 2019, with the next assessment due in 2022 expected to show an even bigger jump again.

Still, even in 2019, around 10 per cent of respondents made at least one mobile payment during the week of the survey, which is over twice the share of respondents that made at least one such payment in 2016.

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Research from the United States suggests that half of the population will be using their phones to make payments by 2025, which would seem pretty conservative for the Australian experience as well.

The RBA states: “The adoption of mobile payments is consistent with the increased availability of this payment option and with consumers’ greater awareness of the ability to make mobile payments”.

While the biggest growth in this area was from those under 40, the use of this payment method also nearly doubled for those aged 65 and over. 

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What about loyalty cards? I hear you ask. These too are going the way of the dinosaur and the dodo.

There are plenty of apps that allow you to store all of your loyalty cards in one place, and it is much easier to find them than it is to dig through your wallet or purse searching for the right card.

Even if you don’t want to use an app to store all your cards in one place you can sign up to each retailer’s app for the loyalty rewards without the need to ever pull out a card.

Technology is also coming a long way to take driver’s licences and make them digital. The next version of the iPhone operating system is expected to come with a mobile licence feature.

While this might seem like an opportunity to ditch your wallet, I think I’ll still be sticking with a lot of the old plastic and cash, the main reason being that the things in my wallet never run out of battery life.

Have you ditched your wallet or purse completely? Can you imagine a time in the future when you will ditch physical cash, cards and driver’s licence? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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Written by Ben