In late 2019, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) undertook its fifth comprehensive Consumer Payments Survey (CPS). The CPS showed that Australians are continuing to switch to electronic payment methods in preference to cash, and in particular, debit cards overtook cash as the single most frequently used payment method.
This is before the spread of corona virus, which is expected to further drive the move to electronic payments as part of social distancing.
The results show that in 2019, 27 per cent of all consumer payments were made with cash, compared with 37 per cent in 2016 and 69 per cent in 2007. These findings mirror the findings of the Bank for International Settlements, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK, and various other central banks who have noted the rapidly declining use of cash, and the corresponding increase in electronic payment methods. The RBA's statistics are compared with the FCA's below:
Australian Cash Payments:
United Kingdom Payment Methods:
The RBA also emphasised the number of alternative means of payment that have emerged or attracted greater attention, with particularly attention going towards, buy now, pay later services, digital currencies (including cryptocurrencies), and the ability for real-time account-to-account bank transfers using PayIDs via the New Payments Platform (the NPP). Interestingly, the RBA specifically referred to Bitcoin, saying:
Although many respondents had heard of ‘cryptocurrencies’, very few had used a cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin to actually make a consumer payment over the past year
This is clear from the RBA's findings below, that while cryptocurrencies enjoy strong awareness in the general community, less than one percent of respondents had actually used cryptocurrency in a transaction.
While this provides some context to the RBA's historical comments about cryptocurrencies, that they are "unreliable, lacking in functionality and credibility", this has not stopped the RBA itself from experimenting with a central bank digital currency and the USA briefly considering deploying a Central Bank Digital Currency as part of their emergency Corona Virus stimulus package (which was removed from the legislation at the eleventh hour).