Getting access to cash may become harder for Australians, Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) governor Michele Bullock has warned.
Speaking at the Australian Payments Network Summit on Tuesday, Bullock said Australians may need to travel further to access cash services in the future if cash access points, including bank branches and ATMs, continue to disappear.
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“The declining use of cash is … challenging the provision of retail cash services,” she said.
“This has been evident in the significant reduction in the number of cash access points over recent years, including ATMs and bank branches.
“Despite this, the distance people need to travel to access cash services has been little changed in recent years. But this may not be the case in the future if access points continue to decline.”
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Bullock revealed the use of cash had declined from 70 per cent of transactions in 2007 to just 13 per cent in 2022.
“The use of cash for payments has been declining for many years as consumers have switched to digital payments,” she said.
Reserve Bank of Australia governor Michele Bullock spoke at the Australian Payments Network Summit on Tuesday. Credit: AAP
But keeping cash in the hands of Aussies is a major focus for the RBA.
“Cash remains an important means of payment for some people and is widely held for precautionary or store-of-wealth purposes,” Bullock said.
Referring to the major Optus outage in November, Bullock said: “(Cash) is an important backup method of payment during system outages or natural disasters when electronic payments might be unavailable.
“The RBA places a high priority on the community continuing to have reasonable access to cash withdrawal and deposit services.”
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A major focus of the RBA in 2024 will also be regulating Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) providers, Bullock revealed.
“Consumers and businesses are benefiting from new payment technologies that are more flexible and easier to use,” she said.
“But greater use of these electronic methods is also adding to payment costs for businesses.
“The Payment Systems (Regulation) Act 1998 is being amended to ensure that newer players in the payments system — including BNPL providers, payment gateways, payment facilitators and mobile wallet providers — can be regulated by the RBA.
“We expect these reforms to be in place sometime in 2024, at which point we intend to launch a holistic review of retail payments regulation.”
Bullock said the RBA will engage with industry on these reforms.