Several ANZ branches cease cash withdrawals

Bank branches were down 30 percent since 2017, and ATMs were down 25 percent since 2016, according to the RBA.

Several ANZ branches cease cash withdrawals

ANZ, one of Australia’s “Big Four” banks, will stop processing withdrawals and deposits at a number of its Australian branches to encourage customers to use an ever-shrinking number of ATMs and deposit machines.

Critics, such as Patricia Sparrow, chief executive officer of the Council on the Ageing, told The Australian that the decision could disproportionately affect older people who are less capable of going digital.

Others have suggested that it would increase the susceptibility of Fiat users to technical issues. The move has also rekindled concerns that the elimination of cash is imminent and that it will be replaced by central bank digital currencies (CBDCs).

In response to inquiries, an ANZ spokesperson stated that the affected branches are all metropolitan branches with nearby ATMs and deposit machines and that the decision was prompted in part by a 50% decline in in-branch transactions over the past four years.

Australia is gradually transitioning to a cashless society, with the percentage of retail payments made with cash falling from 59% in 2007 to just 27% in 2019, according to a Reserve Bank of Australia bulletin released on March 16.

The RBA noted that the results of its 2022 survey will be available later this year, but added that the COVID-19 pandemic had only accelerated the trend, with corporations also contributing to the shift:

“Furthermore, a substantial share of merchants indicated plans to discourage cash payments at some point in the future.”

The RBA also noted a decline in ATMs and bank branches across the country, with the number of bank branches decreasing by 30 percent since 2017 and the number of ATMs falling by 25 percent since 2016.

One of the primary concerns regarding the replacement of cash with CBDCs is the potential impact on individual liberty and privacy, as cash transactions provide anonymity and the ability to conduct transactions without leaving a record.

A CBDC pilot program is currently underway in Australia, with an update expected around the middle of 2023, and the RBA has identified that it could displace the Australian dollar as one of its potential consequences.