Older people are at risk of being left behind during Australia’s transition to a cashless society as major Government-run services stop accepting physical cash payments.
Last week 2GB Sydney host, Chris O’Keefe, shared a caller’s experience with their local Australia Post branch that no longer offers cash transactions.
Brian said his closest post office in Manly had been forced to shut due to flooding and after an eight-month absence it returned but their cash register did not.
“When it reopened in December, they’ve gone cashless, you can only tap and go, so forget about banking activities,” said Brian.
“The pensioners won’t be able to buy a stamp for the letters they send these days.”
Australia Post reportedly told Mr O’Keefe their new office space did not have enough room for a cash register or safe. They said there is no widespread push for all Australia Post branches to no longer accept cash.
But Mr O’Keefe revealed other Government-run organisations have made similar changes, including Service New South Wales.
Experts have predicted that physical cash sales will only account for 2% of all point-of-sale transactions by 2025 with digital wallets – applications that allow you to use a smartphone or smart device to tap and go – even predicted to overtake credit and debit card usage.
Older Australians are most likely to be affected by those changes and they could be left behind.
According to the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) 2019 Consumer Payments Survey, people aged 65 and over are five times more likely than people aged 18-29 to use cash during an in-person transaction.
Speaking to Mr O’Keefe on 2GB, Council on the Ageing (COTA) Chief Executive, Patricia Sparrow, said many pensioners are uncomfortable using digital payments due to online scams.
“Some [older] people are comfortable using cards but we know a lot who aren’t,” said Ms Sparrow.
“They don’t want to use cards for a whole range of reasons; because they’re scared of being a victim of a scam or online theft so they do like to have cash, a set amount that they can withdraw every week and live their lives on that.”
But the loss of critical Government-run service centres is something Ms Sparrow said could impact the daily routines of many older people, especially those living in regional or remote areas.
“The post office [going cashless] is a particular concern because in some areas they’re the replacement for bank branches that have closed,” said Ms Sparrow
“People who want to take cash out have been able to do that at post offices.
“That’s a potential concern and we’re pleased that Australia Post is not saying that’s a trend, but it’s something we need to watch.”
Customers forced to use cards may have no option when it comes to paying additional fees, too.
Some businesses charge merchant fees for credit and debit card use, and if there is no option to use cash, customers cannot avoid daily surcharges for a cup of coffee, stamps or their groceries.
Ms Sparrow said everyone still deserves the choice to pay with cash or card and older people need to be considered when changes are implemented.
“[Cash is] still our recognised currency and older people should be able to use it,” said Ms Sparrow.
“We don’t want to see older people disadvantaged by the increasing trend of going cashless. It should be an option to pay.”