Australia Would be Poorer Without Cash

Nov 6, 2023


Whatever their age, location or occupation, Australians will be poorer if the nation does not support payment choice and retain cash, says finance expert Sarah Wells.

With 20 years’ experience in credit, risk and debt structuring, Sarah Wells provides finance solutions targeted at executives and other professionals, and she warns a cashless society will be harmful at all levels.

Wells says the first to suffer will likely be those in more remote parts of the country, indigenous Australians, new immigrants, sex workers, the very old and the very young. Starting with children, she points out physical money is a key element in early financial education.

I believe it is better for children to use cash. Giving a child $20 and taking them to a shopping centre or the movies helps them learn to budget, and helps them to make decisions by thinking more carefully.
"Sarah Wells, Finance Specialist, Affinity Private Advisors

People in more precarious financial situations—especially those without bank accounts—are less likely to have access to cashless payments, which require certain prerequisites to be met, unlike cash that can be used by anyone at any time. Some cashless options also require a level of digital literacy not everyone possesses, making them less inclusive than cash, which is easy to use and understand.

Emergencies and disasters—such as bushfires, cyclones or flooding—are times at which everyone will depend on cash to purchase essentials, since it does not rely on vulnerable infrastructure. This dependability is also important in areas without good internet coverage, or prone to power outages, where business owners might struggle to accept cashless-only payments.

Removing cash and its availability will make life difficult when you have mobile phone issues, and when there's problems with eftpos [electronic payments systems].
"Sarah Wells, Finance Specialist, Affinity Private Advisors

There is also the matter of choice, and ensuring people can select the right payment choice for each and every transaction. Privacy, and the risks of cyber-attacks and digital fraud, are key reasons why a person might choose to conduct some—or even the majority—of their transactions with cash. Privacy in particular can be important for those who do not want particular payments tracked, with personal data and, in some cases, safety at stake.

The solution to the problem posed by a cashless society is simple: keep cash and continue supporting its availability alongside other payment options. Wells encourages people to use it as often as it makes sense.

We need to stop thinking about ourselves so much, and our own convenience, and start thinking a bit more about others. Every human being has a right to dignity and privacy, whether they are a mum struggling to make ends meet so they do cleaning jobs or babysitting for cash, or whether they are a sex workers. We are not talking about massive tax avoiders here; these are ordinary people.
"Sarah Wells, Finance Specialist, Affinity Private Advisors
Last Updated: Nov 6, 2023