Cash-loving Australians Left in the Lurch
Australians who value payment choice or simply prefer using cash are being let down by bank and ATM closures that are limiting access to banknotes throughout the nation.
A report in the Herald Sun reveals four major banks—ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac—shut down 3,803 ATMs and 459 bank branches across Australia between 2019 and 2021. Victoria was among the worst hit, with Mornington Peninsula losing 11 branches, representing almost a third of its former total (31 percent). Melbourne’s inner city lost 21 branches and Warrnambool lost six. Overall, more than one in four ATMs have closed across the state since 2019.
In Melbourne, the Herald Sun interviewed two twenty-somethings who prefer using cash to pay for groceries and bills and are finding it harder to withdraw the necessary funds.
I do take cash out regularly, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to find ATMs. My mum always had cash and I prefer to use it. I’ve gotten used to it.
The report cites data from the Australian Banking Association that suggests 80 percent of Australians do most of their banking online or by phone. Chief Executive Anna Bligh acknowledges this leaves a large number of people who prefer in-person transactions, saying ‘that’s why banks are still committed to keeping a branch network, even though it may reduce in size.’
The Finance Sector Union points out the shrinking bank branch and ATM network is harming local communities and putting local services at risk. National Secretary Julia Angrisano says jobs are already being lost and businesses have been negatively impacted. She believes minimum levels of service should be guaranteed for all.
There needs to be a better assessment of community needs before a branch is closed. We would like to see community impact assessments become mandatory before a branch is shut.
The report notes the UK is presently trialling a system whereby banks are required to prove customers will not be unfairly inconvenienced by the closure of a local branch before it goes ahead. In Australia, the federal government launched the Regional Banking Taskforce in late 2021 to address the issue, however its report—due in February—has yet to be finalised.