The Reserve Bank is introducing new technology this year which will push Australia even further towards being a cashless society.
Later this year the bank will roll out a new system called the New Payment Platform (NPP).
The NPP will mean money can be transferred almost instantaneously, even when the payer and payee are members of different banks.
The technology will also support “overlay” services, meaning banks will be able to create their own payment services to entice customers.
Professor Richard Holden, from the University of New South Wales, has been studying the rise of the electronic economy and said the NPP would make electronic payments “super easy.”
“[It] is going to make it super easy to transfer money instantaneously for free of any amount or kind,” he said.
“So you’re not going to have to worry about setting up someone as a payee in your online banking and making sure you’ve typed in the BSB number and stuff like that.
“It’s really going to be as simple as, I want to pay you $30 now for some service and I can just pay it based on an email address or phone number.”
In 2014, 12 financial institutions signed up to build the NPP, partly as a way of bringing Australia up to speed with other countries that are ahead in the race to becoming completely cashless.
Sweden is on track to become the world’s first completely cashless economy, and just last November India got rid of its highest denomination bills, effectively eliminating 90 per cent of its paper money.
Professor Holden estimates Australia could be cash free as early as 2020.
The 2015 Westpac Cash Free report also predicted Australia would be cash free by 2022, as more and more customers move to tap and pay technology.
Cashless life ‘a win for Government’
Reserve Bank figures have shown that ATM withdrawals peaked in 2009-10, and have been on the slide ever since.
According to the Australian Payments Association, more than three out of four face-to-face payments are now estimated to be tap-and-go.
Professor Holden said there were huge advantages to a cashless society, especially for governments.
“The reason to do it is that it’s estimated that somewhere between about $3.5 and $5 billion in Australia every year is lost in tax revenue due to the sort of cash economy,” he said.
“[It’s like] someone saying, ‘I just did that job for you, if you pay me [cash] it’s $140, if you want a receipt it’s going to be more’, and so on.
“That’s a lot of lost GST in income tax revenue to the Government at a time when $3, $4 or $5 billion is definitely real money on an annual basis to the Government’s bottom line.”
Tap-and-go ‘safe and secure’
Spice Alley in Sydney’s CBD has joined a growing trend among businesses moving towards being completely cash free.
Modelled on an Asian-style hawker centre, hundreds of food orders are placed at the busy stalls every hour.
Cash might have traditionally been king at these kinds of places, but at Spice Alley no paper money can be seen changing hands.
Marcus Chang is the CEO of Kensington Street Holdings, the company in charge of operations at Spice Alley.
“When you come in to Spice Alley you can go to any of the kitchens and use your credit card as a tap-and-go,” he said.
“Tap-and-go is a great technology — it’s safe, it’s secure.
“When we started up Spice Alley we recognised there would be a lot of students, so we catered towards them in the initial part, but it’s worked out that … they’re maybe 20 per cent of our market.
“We looked at trends [around the world] and when we thought about payments systems across a multi-kitchen outlet, we thought we should do like a one card [system] you can use everywhere — and that’s when we came up with a cashless system.”