A major bank has made the shock decision to scrap cash in all of its branches across Australia, in what could be another step towards a cashless society.
Macquarie Bank has announced it will phase cash out across their branches in 2024, and by November of the same year, the bank won’t accept cash anywhere.
The move is being slammed as one which will have a particularly negative impact in regional areas, and for elderly Australians.
“Between January 2024 and November 2024, we’ll be phasing out our cash and cheque services across all Macquarie banking and wealth management products, including pension and super accounts,” the bank said in a statement to clients.
As well as scrapping over-the-counter cash transactions, Macquarie will also stop accepting payments via telephone banking from May next year.
The move means customers wishing to withdraw or deposit cash will only be able to do so via an ATM.
News of the decision was met with dismay by some businesses, who said it was “inevitable” other banks would go down the same path as Macquarie.
“People in regional areas constantly have challenges around internet access so using cash is often an easier option, making the local bank branch and cash services important to those in country towns,” General Manager of Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory, Rhiannon Druce, said.
“There is concern other banks will follow Macquarie Bank’s lead which unfortunately feels inevitable.”
Macquarie Bank defended its decision, saying the vast majority of its customers already banked digitally and only around 1% used cash or cheques.
“As a digital bank, we’re committed to transitioning to completely digital payments by November 2024 as a safer, faster and convenient way to bank,” a Macquarie Bank spokesperson told NCA NewsWire.
“The majority of our customers already bank digitally and we’re working very closely to support the less than 1% of our customers who currently use cheques or cash to ensure they have access to other digital payment methods.”
Despite the bank’s reassurances, there were also fears about what the growing trend towards digital-only transactions would mean for older Australians.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to happen in terms of educating and informing senior Australians in terms of being able to operate using their smartphones and these apps,” Chief Operating Officer of National Seniors Australia Chris Grice told 9News in July.
Earlier this year, Commonwealth Bank and ANZ decided to stop handling cash in a few branches, but the move by Macquarie to almost entirely phase out cash is unprecedented.
NAB are also ramping up their digital-only locations, with several “Tellerless” branches around the country.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers also announced in June that cheques would be entirely phased out in Australia by 2030.
Angry customers took to social media to vent their fury at the move.
“This is ridiculous. What if a child gets cash for their birthday and wants to deposit it,” one person wrote on Facebook.
“I am a cash user. What right has the banks to tell me how to access & use my own money. This is not modernising, it’s control & dictatorship,” another person fumed.
Some were not so worried, dismissing fears of a cashless society as the work of “conspiracy theorists”.
“No big drama. I’m glad to use digital currency,” one advocate of the change said.