“Can 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.