While consumer spending has fallen after the panic-buying splurge in March, and many retailers are refusing cash payments for hygiene reasons, banknotes have been stashed away in homes and wallets more than ever.
The Reserve Bank of Australia has been meeting spikes in demand for banknotes from commercial banks and their customers, despite reporting last week that use of cash had reduced during the pandemic.
The demand for notes for the year to last Thursday rose by more than nine per cent, going against the trend of the past couple of years.
Up to six per cent of that increase – worth about $5 billion – has happened since the mid-March share market convulsions.
The RBA revealed in its April financial stability report that cash withdrawals from banks increased in the second half of March.
“This included a small number of customers making very large withdrawals – more than $100,000, and in some cases into the millions of dollars,” it said, adding that the elevated demand had since abated.
But a banking system insider says there’s been another spike in demand in the past two weeks, not quite as big as in March, coming from banks and their customers.
“We are seeing banks are getting extra cash in anticipation of COVID restrictions easing, and retailers, pubs and clubs wanting their floats back, while people aren’t making as many deposits,” he told AAP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Also when people are more uncertain about things they tend to hold more liquidity around them. No one’s suggesting there’s any concern with the banks – people just do that.”
The use of cash has fallen steadily to 27 per cent of all payments late last year from 69 per cent in 2007, according to RBA statistics.
But the pandemic may not bring Australia closer to being a cashless society.
The Royal Australian Mint says coin production for general circulation has decreased slightly during the pandemic compared to the same period last year.
“We believe that Australians using contactless payments may increase post COVID-19 but this will not lead to a permanent shift to a cashless society, at least not in the near future,” the mint said in a statement.
Want to comment?
Send us an email, making it clear which story you’re commenting on and including your full name (required for publication) and phone number (only for verification purposes). Please put “Reader views” in the subject.
We’ll publish the best comments in a regular “Reader Views” post. Your comments can be brief, or we can accept up to 350 words, or thereabouts.
Help our journalists uncover the facts
In times like these InDaily provides valuable, local independent journalism in South Australia. As a news organisation it offers an alternative to The Advertiser, a different voice and a closer look at what is happening in our city and state for free. Any contribution to help fund our work is appreciated. Please click below to donate to InDaily.