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Will a cashless society impact older Aussies?

Have you made the change from pocket-change to holding every asset in the palm of your hand?

Is a cashless society easier for consumers or putting older people at risk? [Source: Shutterstock]

Is a cashless society easier for consumers or putting older people at risk? [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points:

  • 75 percent of older Australians were concerned about the safety and security of online banking, according to a statement from the eSafety Commissioner in 2020
  • 45 percent of national research study respondents over the age of 50 revealed that they had experienced viruses, scams, credit card or personal information theft
  • Experts have predicted that physical cash sales will only account for two percent of all point-of-sale transactions by 2025


This edition of Aged Care Guide will cover the wild world of technology and digital methods for purchasing goods and services. It may seem as if people are buying their lunch with a wristwatch in the modern day — is it a good thing or a bad thing? What does it mean for the good ol’ fashioned coins and notes?

This article outlines the current state of currency and will provide an overview of how the new payment methods work. After a brief overview, readers can assess the pros and cons of a soon-to-be-cashless society.

Call now for an obligation-free chat regarding Financial Services options for you or your loved one with a financial services expert.

Making cents of physical money

Physical money — known as ‘cash’ — is a type of fiat currency — meaning it is not backed by the value of a commodity, such as gold or oil. The Australian dollar is a form of fiat currency that is issued by the Government, which means the Government can control the scarcity of how much cash is printed or minted.

Cash is used for goods and services, but the rise of debit and credit cards led many to be less reliant on carrying around notes and coins. As such, the number of stores that accepted digital forms of payment began to meet the demand of consumers. However, as digital forms of payment became more popular than cash, particularly for larger purchases, some stores became solely reliant on cashless transactions, which is a legal business practice according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Although businesses must accept legal tender in Australia, the method of payment is at the discretion of the business owner — which means that although money is accepted, cash may be legally refused at an establishment.

Notably, even Government-run services have begun the transition to a ‘cashless’ society, as reported by HelloCare in February of 2023.

Digital methods of payment

The Bankcard system first came to Australia in 1974 and the EFTPOS system was rolled out in 1983 – 1984, marking the start of an international method for digital payments in Australia; by 1984, there were approximately five million digital payment cards in circulation.

Since the mid- to late-2010s, digital wallets and touch-and-go payments have been available on smartphones, which brought about the rise of ‘buy-now, pay-later’ apps — combining aspects of traditional credit and lay-by services.

When you go to pay for something through the use of a digital wallet [pictured], you can tap your phone rather than pull out your physical wallet. [Source: Shutterstock]

A digital wallet is a lot like the contact list in your phone, rather than using a physical phonebook. Digital wallets allow you to input your payment information in a secure mobile application.

Digital wallets, such as Apple Pay or Google Wallet, use encryption — which is like a form of disguising your transactions — to ensure that payments are made securely and without contact. Notably, these apps skyrocketed in popularity amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the reduced risk of viral transmission.

Digital wallet apps are also available on other wearable devices such as the Apple Watch, with synchronised accounts across shared devices tethering bank balances to reflect cash flow in real-time.

Pros of digital payments replacing cash

A cashless society may benefit older people who are at risk of:

  • Addiction — such as gambling
  • Financial elder abuse
  • Scams or deceptive marketing for online shopping
  • Unlawful bank account access from an exploitative third party


When unusual, foreign or large transactions are processed or are processed frequently within a short timeframe, the bank may freeze the account to prevent theft, deception or fraud from negatively impacting an older person.

A cashless society may benefit older Australians who own small or family-run businesses, due to the cost of security for safes, tills and other associated targets for theft.

Cons of digital payments replacing cash

Despite the series of benefits for older people from the trend towards a cashless society, there are several disadvantages, such as:

  • Hidden fees for digital transactions — ie. merchant or surcharge fees
  • Tracking savings using complicated or inconsistent mobile apps — with routine system maintenance, crashes and necessary internet data
  • Transaction speeds between different banks impact the processing of purchases
  • Recharging the device which hosts a digital wallet for wearable or mobile payment
  • The ability for a bank to freeze an account or transaction at will
  • Bank account activity surveillance and taxation report monitoring

What do you think of the digital wallet trend? Have you made the change from pocket-change to holding every asset in the palm of your hand? Let the team at Aged Care Guide know your thoughts in the comment section, through email or on social media.


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