Finder makes money from featured partners, but editorial opinions are our own.

The use of cards has overtaken cash for the first time



Plastic is now the most popular payment option in Australia, according to an RBA study.

Cash once played an important part in our everyday lives. Whether you were buying a coffee, paying for groceries or grabbing a train ticket (this is pre-Opal days, people), it wasn’t uncommon to use cash for the majority of our day-to-day payments.

However, the increased availability of contactless payment terminals and the ability to use a card for everyday costs means that Australians are using their cards to make payments more than ever. According to a study conducted by the Reserve Bank in 2016 and released this week, credit and debit cards have superseded cash as the most frequently used consumer payment for the first time. The study surveyed 1,500 participants as they collectively made 17,000 everyday payments during one week.

The study found that Australians use a card to cover 52% of consumer payments, with cash following at 37%. The use of cash has been declining steadily for years, with Australians using cash for 47% of payments in 2013 and 69% in 2007.

How Australians made payments in 2016

The RBA has pointed out that credit and debit card use has increased nationwide over the last three years, but it’s especially noticeable at food retailers, public transport and taxis. The RBA also noted that the introduction of booking apps for ride-sharing services and taxis have also likely contributed to the rise of card payments.

This growing dependence on cards is evident across all age demographics as well. Consumers of all ages are using contactless cards more than they did three years ago, with nearly 60% of participants in 2016 making at least one contactless card payment during the week, compared with around one-third of participants in 2013.

Unsurprisingly, cash is still popular among older Australians. Participants aged 65 and over used physical money to make more than 50% of their payments in 2016, said the RBA.

Although we’ve seen many banks launching their own mobile payment apps or partnering with the likes of Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay, mobile payments are still underused. According to the survey, nearly 90% of participants said they hadn’t used mobile payments and didn’t intend to. In a finder survey conducted in 2017, almost three out of four Australians also said they weren’t interested in using mobile payments.

However, the RBA concluded that it wouldn’t be shocked if electronic and mobile payments increase once the New Payments Platform is launched later this year. Until then, Australians will continue to tap and pay with their cards to maintain our position as the world leader in contactless payments.

Latest credit cards headlines

Picture: Shutterstock

Get more from Finder

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Terms of Use, Disclaimer & Privacy Policy and 6. Finder Group Privacy & Cookies Policy.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Go to site