All retailers in Australia and New Zealand need to continue to accept cash during and post COVID-19. While everyone needs to follow government health advice and the advice of the World Health Organisation, cash is an important legal tender and the backbone of our economy. There has been plenty of confusion in shops and at points of sale about how to transact safely.
The people who make our bank notes, the Royal Australian Mint wants to make this clear:
“Cash poses no greater risk than other forms of payment or many other dry surfaces.”
So cash – notes and coins – are not the problem. The Mint explains further:
“The World Health Organization has stated that banknotes and coins have the same chance of transmitting COVID-19 as many other surfaces one encounters during a normal shopping experience, including shopping trolleys, hand rails, lift buttons, keypads, mobile phones and bank cards used to tap and go.”
While cash poses no great virus risk, not accepting cash means losing business and antagonising customers. It also means your business is particularly vulnerable to bank system outages. The recent Commonwealth Bank EFTPOS and card system outage left millions of consumers and thousands of businesses without card payments for a whole day.
A big Telstra outage on Sunday 2 August left thousands without internet In Victoria, NSW and ACT.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">⚠️ Our team is looking into an issue impacting some home internet connections including nbn. We'll keep you posted as we get on top of it. Sorry to mess with your Sunday plans.</p>— Telstra (@Telstra) <a href="https://twitter.com/Telstra/status/1289726695507804161?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">August 2, 2020</a></blockquote><script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Recently the Reserve Bank and the Royal Australian Mint have confirmed they are aware of consumer concern and complaints about retailers who are not accepting cash. The Mint said they have “received significant comments and requests for help from those who have been denied the use of cash as a means of payment.”
“Being able to keep using cash during this period is important for many people,” said the Royal Australian Mint in a rare statement.
“To disallow cash as a means of payment could disadvantage or discriminate against people such as those with literacy issues, low incomes or without regular access to phone or internet.
The Mint warns: “While it is not illegal to refuse the use of cash as payment, in an effort to help reduce the spread of the virus, retailers may unintentionally deny people access to the goods and services they need and place an unnecessary burden on customers.”
The Reserve Bank also agrees. In a letter to Next Payments, the Assistant Governor Michelle Bullock said:
“We expect that most merchants will be happy to continue to accept cash for some time to come, because it is not in their interests to turn customers away or antagonise them.”
How can shops, retailers and merchants accept cash (notes and coins), more safely during and post COVID-19?
The Mint says: “The Australian Government’s health advice is that everyone can slow the spread of COVID-19 by washing their hands frequently, covering their coughs, putting tissues straight into a bin, avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth, cleaning regularly used objects and surfaces and ventilating their home or workspace.”
The World Health Organisation says food preparation and money handling should be separated and that hands should be sanitised before and after handling cash.
95 per cent of Australians want to retain the right to pay with cash if they choose, according to recent market research from Next Payments.
More importantly for retailers, 40% say they avoid businesses that don’t accept cash.
The onus is on retailers to provide a safe environment for the handling of cash, to ensure they don’t lose business and customers remain happy.
Some people love cash. Tim Wildash, CEO of Next Payments is one of them.
“Cash is cleaner than plastic cards and is private as well,” said Tim Wildash
“Tapping your card on an unsanitised EFTPOS unit can pick up viruses.”
“And not accepting cash means you lose business when the bank system crashes.”
“A retailer that doesn’t accept cash certainly loses a lot of my business and the business of many other people.”
THIS INFORMATION IS GENERAL IN NATURE AND DOES NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT YOUR PERSONAL SITUATION. YOU SHOULD CONSIDER WHETHER THE INFORMATION IS APPROPRIATE TO YOUR NEEDS, AND WHERE APPROPRIATE, SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE FROM A FINANCIAL ADVISER IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS IN FINANCIAL STRESS, CONTACT THE NATIONAL DEBT HELPLINE ON 1800 007 007.
Are you a small business or a busines accepting card and/or online payments from customers? Have you tried to understand the merchant service deals and offers from banks and their competitors?