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Australian bank stops handling cash at the counter in some branches

Crikey! Get those banknotes to an ATM, mate!

The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ Bank) has stopped handling cash over the counter at some branches.

"There are a small number of branches where we no longer handle cash at a counter," a spokesperson for the 570-branch bank, which posted an AU8$ billion ($5.84n) profit last year, told The Register. "At these branches, cash and cheque deposits and cash withdrawals can continue to be made by using our Smart ATM and coin deposit machines, and we have staff on hand to help customers that might be using them for the first time."

The reason for ANZ's move is that Aussies are using less cash.

As the nation's Reserve Bank put it in a March 2023 study titled The Cash-use Cycle in Australia: "The use of cash for day-to-day transactions has been in trend decline in Australia since the mid-2000s."

"The use of ATMs has been declining since 2008, with the number and value of ATM withdrawals falling by about 60 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively," the document adds. "This decline was previously occurring at a steady pace, but cash withdrawals fell dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic and have only partially recovered."

The Australian Banking Association data supports the bank's analysis, suggesting that Aussies made 75 million ATM withdrawals in the month of December 2008, but just 31 million in February 2021 (a month when most of Australia was out of COVID lockdowns).

And before you mention it, most of Australia was not locked down due to COVID 19 in February 2021, and plague time ATM use plummeted to 21 million withdrawals a month.

The Reserve Bank has helped things along by creating the New Payment System, which allows real-time peer-to-peer payments using mobile phone numbers or email addresses as identifiers of bank accounts.

ANZ's spokesperson told us the decision not to handle cash in some branches is also a reflection of its customers not visiting banks to transact with coins or the folding stuff.

"Our customers are changing how they bank with more than a 50 per cent decline in in-branch transactions across ANZ over the past four years," we were told. Today, many customers visit our branches to discuss more complex and big financial decisions, like borrowing for a new home or establishing business accounts for a new business."

"Only eight per cent of our customers solely rely on branches for their everyday banking needs, with the majority preferring online and mobile banking methods."

Interestingly, the Reserve Bank's cash cycle research measured the distance the average Aussie must travel to a facility that handles cash, and found it's rising: the loss of 864 bank branches and 517 ATMs between June 2020 and June 2022 means 95 percent of the population must travel an extra 100 meters to find a branch, or 200 meters to find a standalone cash machine. ®

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