EFTPOS – The Australian Cashless Culture

ANZCan you lend me a fiver?

Do you take EFTPOS?

Whenever I asked to borrow a fiver in England, I never once received that response. I won’t here in Australia either, because nobody refers to anything as a fiver. Anyway, here’s an article I wrote for Australia and New Zealand magazine which appeared in their November 2017 edition.

Waving the card


When I first arrived in Australia 10 years ago, I met a bloke who would only ever pay for things with a card. Never had cash on him, ever. The first question he would ask when he walked into a pub, for example, was ‘Do you take EFTPOS?

I didn’t even know what it meant, but I quickly discovered that when the answer was no, it was my round and not his.

I soon realised this was some kind of a trick to cut down his drinking bill, that he had slopey shoulders, slow to buy his around. Turns out, he was probably a bit of a pioneer, as well as being tight.

These days everybody uses a card to pay for virtually everything in Australia. In my nearly 50 years of living in the UK, I never bought a drink from a pub with a credit or debit card, and for many years I didn’t in Australia either.

Just lately though, I have succumbed.

These days I think nothing of flashing the card in the boozer, or should I say, waving the card. A quick wave of my contactless smart debit card across an EFTPOS terminal and my bar bill is paid. No signing, no pin number.

So what is it?

EFTPOS stands for Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale and when I left England 10 years ago, I had never heard of it. Maybe you do have it now, or something similar, and perhaps you are all paying for your beers in the pub with plastic as well.

Here though, there is much talk of Australia becoming a cashless society. Even buskers in the street are feeling the pinch; fewer people are carrying any cash to throw in the hat.


The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) this year stated that cash withdrawals at ATMs are at a 15 year low. Cash will become even more obsolete later this year when a New Payment Platform (NPP) is launched, allowing people to send money electronically to any other person or business in Australia. The money will be transferred instantly in real time, whether banks are open or not.

At the moment though, there is a way to go yet before Australia is cashless.

In 2007, cash was still king, accounting for 70% of all transactions. In 2013 that had fallen to 47%. It has fallen further since then and some are predicting that by 2022 cash will account for just 2% of all transactions.

I’m not so sure.

Just like (probably) every other country, Australia has a black economy. Our black economy here is estimated to be worth anything from $30-$50 billion a year.

That’s quite a lot of cash.

A recent report suggested that many businesses, 40% in Northern Territory for example, use the business number of Bunnings, Australia’s biggest hardware store, on their invoices. This makes the money they have received untraceable.

Everybody knows that the vast majority of tradies have two prices, one for cash and one for card.

So my money (see what I did there?) is on two distinct societies, cashless and cash only. Maybe one day when I do pull out a $50 note in a pub, the barman will say “What’s that?

A tradie though, I’m pretty sure, will always recognise cash.

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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Noah Snipes July 5, 2019, 10:43 pm |

    yeah I was REALLY surprised when even on a crafts market (The Channon, NSW) the stall bloke suddenly told me “yea I take credit no worries”
    So even on a bloody flea market you can pay with your piece of plastic nowadays.
    The future truly is now y’all

    • BobinOz July 9, 2019, 5:02 pm |

      Yes, seems everybody takes credit these days, and some places now no longer take cash. UK football club Tottenham have just built a new stadium for around £1 billion and it’s completely cashless, you can’t buy anything in there with real money. It’s all on your card or phone app.

      Sweden will be the first-ever cashless country apparently, and they’re not far from it now. I still tend to use cash a lot, which I draw out from an ATM with my card, and for the life of me I don’t know why I do that.

      Old habits, I suppose.

  • Catherine March 21, 2019, 6:24 am |

    UK is very much run on cashless payments now, upto £30 wave your card at the machine, over £30 you need to pay by pin, you can even wave your apple watch at the till and payment will be taken. Even parking tickets are paid by card, everything really except the ice-cream vans!

    • BobinOz March 22, 2019, 7:49 pm |

      Ha, ha, glad to hear it hasn’t spread to ice cream vans, not too many eight-year-olds with a credit card 🙂

      The cashless society is definitely spreading, and even cards aren’t needed anymore, with many people paying using their phone.

  • Liron October 12, 2018, 3:19 am |

    From what I’ve read, things might have changed in the UK since you left. Contactless has caught on there, though still not as popular as here, and there is at least one pub that has gone cashless, as well as some restaurants. Despite that, the UK is ranked higher on the list of most cashless countries than Australia.

    • BobinOz October 12, 2018, 5:12 pm |

      Yes, I’m sure things have changed a great deal since I was last in the UK, I have been gone 11 years.

      I’ve done some googling, someone has clearly done some research and looked at six key factors for credit/debit cards and come up with the table the places the UK in third position and Australia seventh in a cashless society rating.

      For sure though, when I first got here in 2007 I was really quite surprised by how many people using a card to pay for drinks at the pub. A cashless pub though? How is a tradie supposed to buy a drink? 🙂

  • Alex October 11, 2018, 2:59 pm |

    This is aweome and i love it.
    I hate carrying cash and getting really heavy coins in return. So I welcome to a cashless society!
    The only thing coins are usefull to is 1- getting a troley at Aldi and 2- Getting a locker in some public places.

    • BobinOz October 11, 2018, 9:36 pm |

      A lot of lockers are switching over to pay wave now, and you can buy a keyring that stores a dollar in it for those trolleys. So cash is completely useless 🙂

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