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ATMs are back in fashion

Eden Radford avatar
Eden Radford
- 3 min read
ATMs are back in fashion

The ATMs of Australia have been getting a workout, with a significant increase in the total value of cash withdrawals recorded for January and February, according to data from the RBA.

February 2024 saw Australians withdraw more than $9.5 billion in cash, the highest amount of cash withdrawn since July 2020.

January, which saw over $9.4 billion withdrawn, was the sixth largest increase, month-on-month in RBA records, at 5.8%.

Total value of ATM cash withdrawals in Australia

Total value of cash withdrawals

Source: RBA, ATMs, seasonally adjusted data

Average value of cash withdrawn

Average value of cash withdrawn

Source: RBA, ATMs, seasonally adjusted data

What’s fuelled the rush on ATMs?

While there’s been plenty of speculation, the confirmed reason why cash withdrawals have increased so significantly remains a mystery.

One suggestion is that consumers are protesting against the idea of a cashless society.

The idea of Australia removing all forms of physical cash has been floated for some time, motivated by evidence of cash use declining.

For example, the RBA in their June 2023 Bulletin revealed their cash payments survey results in the article: ‘Cash Use and attitudes in Australia’, which showed that the use of cash as a form of payment was significantly declining, to just 13 per cent of all in-person payments, in value terms.

Although, it’s worth noting that the RBA acknowledges that reduced access to cash access points, such as ATMs, could be impacting the decline in cash - not just consumers choosing to use electronic forms of payment, such as eftpos.

“These [survey] results are a continuation of the long-run decline in cash use observed since the first Consumer Payment Survey in 2007, which likely reflects interrelated structural factors. One factor is that consumer preferences have shifted over this time towards electronic payment methods as new technologies have made these more convenient. Another factor is that the number of cash access points has declined considerably in recent years, although the distance to the nearest cash access point has remained relatively unchanged.”

Protests against a cashless society have been demonstrated over the last few months - as either community groups gathering online, or physical demonstrations where consumers were encouraged to withdraw cash on the same day to demonstrate the appetite for cash.

Could Australia really become a cashless society?

While some experts believe a cashless society is inevitable, there are a number of things that will need to happen before the country can truly eliminate cash.

A large cohort of our community still rely on cash for payment, and developing secure infrastructure to host a fully digital payment economy will take time.

Until then, there’s no doubt that all eyes will be on the next round of ATM data to see if there’ll be any more unexpected climbs.

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Product database updated 16 Jun, 2024

This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Mark Bristow before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.