Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Don't you want me baby. We're falling out of love with cash

ATM cash withdrawals down 1.3%
Internet transfers up 7.5%
EFTPOS transactions up 7.5%
Credit card balances up 0.7%
Personal cheques down 5.7%

Year to January. Reserve Bank of Australia

We’re falling out of love with cash. We withdrew cash from ATMs 64.7 million times in January, which sounds a lot but was well down on 65.6 million times the previous January.

December was even worse. We took out cash 71.9 million times compared to 73.6 million the year before.

Mobile phones, EFTPOS, internet transfers and cards that merely need to be waved in front of machines are taking the place of cash, but credit cards aren’t.

Reserve Bank figures released yesterday show the average credit card limit climbed just 0.7 per cent over the year to January, the smallest annual growth on record.

Internet transfers jumped 7.5 per cent. We put through 60 million in January, up from 55 million.

Debt card transactions jumped 12 per cent.

As we used both credit and debt cards more intensively in place of cash the average size of a card transaction fell to just $89.53 - an all-time low...

“People don’t want to carry cash around, welcome to the new age,” said CommSec chief economist Craig James.

“The extent of the slide is staggering. Cash is losing its place as the primary method for making purchases and exchanging value.”

Fees for ATM use appear to be changing behaviour. The proportion ATM withdrawals made from ‘home bank’ rather than ‘foreign’ ATMS has climbed form 52 per cent to 59 per cent over the last five years.

Our growing aversion to using credit cards might be part of the same value-shopping mentality. Although the average credit card limit is $9,100 calculations by Mr James suggest the average debt outstanding debt is just $3200.

“Certainly credit is available if consumers want it, but they much prefer to be in control of their finances,” said Mr James. “The new age of consumer conservatism shows no sign of ending.”

“We’ll soon get a better handle on spending by tracking card transactions than retail data. Cards are replacing cash, services are replacing traditional retail and online stores are replacing bricks and mortar.”

Published in today's Sydney Morning Herald and Age

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