Cash: Banks are closing more branches and removing more ATMs

Hundreds of ATMs are disappearing from bank branches across Australia. Here’s why.

Big banks continue to cut hundreds of ATMs and close branches as consumers further reduce their use of cash.

In Western Australia alone, the number of ATMs has been reduced from 1,478 in 2017 to 763 at the end of last year.

Australian Banking Association chief executive Anna Bligh said customers were voting with their feet.

“Australians bank on their phones, they pay for their goods and services using online payments, (and) using their tap and go card,” she told 6PR radio on Thursday.

“The fastest growing method is using their mobile phone to make a payment.

“Many of us are now talking about the fact that we don’t even keep cash in our wallets. »

Ms Bligh said 80% of customers used virtual channels, rather than ATMs and branches, so it was important to keep these services as secure as possible.

But she said there was still room for cash and people could also use Australia Post.

“Australian banks don’t see us going completely cashless any time soon,” she said.

“There will continue to be a role for money. It will continue to be available, perhaps in fewer outlets, but it’s not about to disappear tomorrow.

“Australia still has more branches per 100,000 people than countries like New Zealand, Canada, the UK and Germany. »

Ms Bligh said the trend of using less cash was already underway when Covid-19 hit and the pandemic had “significantly accelerated” the move away from cash.

But she noted that at the start of the pandemic, there was actually a lot more cash withdrawn from branches and ATMs.

“Interestingly, this money was not used for transactions. People weren’t using it to go out and buy milk or newspapers,” she said.

“The explanation, I think, is that in a time of uncertainty like Covid was, especially at the beginning … there was a lot of comfort in knowing” look, I just had $500 in the box of jam in the kitchen if I need money.

“Most of the traders – the fruit shop, the butcher, the big supermarkets – everyone had signed up saying there was no cash.

“So that actually helped accelerate that push of customers, because those who maybe kept thinking ‘I’m going to get there’ suddenly had to do it really quickly.

“Now they’ve gotten so used to it that they don’t start using cash again. They may still have cash at home, or have it in their wallet, but in reality they are buying things with their Tap and Go card.”

Ms Bligh said many older Australians were also ‘digitally savvy’, so it’s not just young people who are cutting back on their use of money.

“There’s a whole spectrum there and yes age is a factor, but I don’t think we should stereotype every older Australian as someone who can’t, or won’t, or won’t use these channels,” she said.

“The data shows us that they are jumping online at very significant rates. »

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