A petition to prevent Australia from becoming a cashless society has garnered more than 120,000 signatures as banks increasingly restrict customers’ access to their money.
The Change.org petition calls for an “Australian bank and cash guarantee” that would see the government step in to regulate banks that are simplifying their operations by closing branches or eliminating cash services in person.
In Australia, more than 1,600 bank branches closed their doors permanently between June 2017 and July 2022, with a “disproportionate number” in regional communities bearing the brunt, according to the Financial Services Union.
Westpac has embarked on a ‘co-location’ strategy in which it is closing some separate locations of brands it owns, such as St George, and moving them within a Westpac branch.
While the remaining big four banks (Commonwealth, ANZ and NAB) have opened cashless branches where customers are directed to ATMs for ‘everyday banking’.
The big four banks have also introduced restrictions on customers sending large amounts to cryptocurrency exchanges and partner sites.
Banks say this is to prevent scams, but the cryptocurrency community has argued that they are protecting their own bottom line from competitors looking to “intrude” on their turf.
All of this comes amid banks making massive profits, with the Commonwealth Bank posting a record $10bn annual profit this week, as sky-high interest rates boost its lending revenue.
Commonwealth Bank has opened cashless branches and is limiting the amount its customers can spend on crypto transactions
According to Change.org petition launched in March by Cash Welcome founder Jason Bryce: ‘Banks are abandoning cities and suburbs and leaving Australians without immediate access to cash and banking services.’
While the move to protect physical notes and coins might sound like paranoia about moving to digital transactions, Bryce said the reason was more practical.
He explained that a cashless society shuts out some groups, such as the elderly, from the economy, reduces the value of cash by imposing fees on customers and businesses, is vulnerable to hacks and glitches, and makes it harder for people to budget.
“No Australian city, suburb or community should be left without reasonable local access to full banking services and physical notes and coins,” the petition demands.
“All Australians should be able to use cash to buy food and groceries if they want to.”
Dr Chris Vasantkumar of Macquarie University said that “not using cash is privatizing a public good: money.”
“Transactions have moved out of the public sphere into private banking infrastructures and someone is making money from their transactions.”
Mr. Bryce’s personal reasons for making the switch to cash arose in 2020 when he discovered he was spending more simply using a card or phone and didn’t link that to real money.
“I was tapping, tapping, tapping my card to buy everything and I lost control of my budget, so I decided not to do it anymore,” he told Nine News.
He said that in addition to better managing his money, there were other unexpected benefits.
‘I found that I ate better, because I wasn’t just tapping to pay for that packet of chips. I had to find extra money and realized that I didn’t want to give the money away for junk food.
Jason Bryce is pushing to save cash as banks go “digital” with a petition he launched that has garnered more than 120,000 supporters.
A petition to ensure Australians can always access cash and use it in business has garnered more than 120,000 signatures.
Once a well-known principle of budgeting; putting physical notes in envelopes for different expenses, you’re coming back with a cash stuffing trend on tiktok
Sydney Morning Herald finance commentator Nicole Pederson-McKinnon said in April that she cut her spending by 35 per cent using the tactic.
The Reserve Bank said earlier this year it was ‘monitoring’ Australia’s cash access points as a reduction in these could lead to ‘instability’, but no formal regulation is yet in place.
Governments in the UK, US and New Zealand have moved to ensure access to cash, while Sweden, considered the frontrunner in the race to cashless technology, made a dramatic turnaround in 2021 by amending its Cash Act. Payment Services to ensure that “reasonable access to cash” is provided throughout the country. .
Sweden found that some groups, such as the elderly and the homeless, were falling dangerously behind in a near unanimous shift to digital payments.
Under the new law, “credit institutions… must provide services that allow cash to be withdrawn from accounts to an appropriate extent throughout the country.”
“No more than 0.3 percent of the population will have to travel more than 25 kilometers to access a cash withdrawal or deposit point.”