Cash out of favour on many fronts

Demand for cash is on the wane on two fronts, with “cash out” at the point of sale fading alongside cash withdrawals from automatic teller machines, with both trends a function of the popularity of contactless payments in Australia.

“Cash advances continue to lose momentum,” Mike Ebstein from MWE Consulting wrote yesterday in his monthly analysis of Reserve Bank of Australia payments data.

The RBA put cash advances at A$738 million in February 2017, which Ebstein said was “the lowest monthly figure since April 2000.”

The number of ATM withdrawals in February was down by 10.1 per cent on a year ago, Craig James, chief economist at CommSec, said. This represented “fresh 15-year lows, with the value down by 6.6 per cent on a year ago,” James said.

“Retail customers can do most transactions digitally or remotely. And customers even aren’t coming in to branches to get cash, instead making transactions with cards more often.”

The decline and fall of cash presents an ongoing challenge for financial institutions that are still reliant on a branch network for product distribution: how to efficiently configure bricks-and-mortar branches, James added in a note to investors.

Core metrics of the lending side of banks’ credit cards business were also subdued, the MWE analysis shows.

Balances accruing interest “increased by a relatively small $85 million to be $206 million below the February 2017 level,” the MWE report said.

Total credit limits, Ebstein said, “continue to essentially mark time and retreated by $207 million to $151 billion in February 2017. This puts them $1.430 million or 1.0 per cent above the February 2016 figure.”

This article first appeared in Banking Day.

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