Confidential Reserve Bank of Australia documents released under Freedom of Information on the 3 June
2020 show the RBA has been investigating and considering the issue of virus transmission and currency
The result of this extensive research has been to confirm the cash poses no significant risk of carrying
viruses, despite recent scare campaigns from Mastercard and some banks.
The documents reveal a senior researcher told his superior that they had concluded:
“banknotes pose minimal risk of transmission of disease.”
“die-off of microbial populations is more rapid on polymer notes than on the paper notes”
The documents also link to a 2010 study by the University of Ballarat that found that the “Polymer’s
smooth surface hindered the adherence of bacteria.”
The documents also reveal the CSIRO advised the RBA:
“Regarding the transmission of viruses, banknotes should not be singled out as posing a significantly
greater risk for the transfer of viruses than other regularly touched surfaces such as escalator handrails,
coins, and door handles.
“Higher risks are posed from travellers and perhaps mail (licked envelopes).”
“Finally, it appears the most effective way to reduce risk of spreading viruses (and bacteria) is for
individuals to practise good personal hygiene. This includes washing hands before eating and (for food
outlets) a separation of money handling from food handling.”
“Cash is not a significant source of virus transmission despite what card companies and some banks have
been telling the public,” said Tim Wildash, Chief Executive Officer of Next Payments, Australia and New
Zealand’s leading independent ATM supplier.
“These documents show how seriously the RBA takes the issue of keeping our cash clean.
“Australia and New Zealand have some of the safest, cleanest currency in the world and the best thing
about cash is that it’s surcharge-free,” said Tim Wildash.
“While bank merchant service (transactions) fee income rose 2.2% to $3.21 billion in 2019 said the RBA.”
Recent market research from Next Payments shows more than 95% of consumers want to keep their right
to pay with cash.
Debit and credit cards may carry many more germs than bank notes and coins according to new American
The Royal Australian Mint says there is no evidence linking cash to the transmission of COVID-19. Cash is
sanitised before being delivered by cash companies to venues and ATM operators. Next Payments has
issued advice to ATM owners and venue operators about how to ensure their cash machines remain clean
and disease free.