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Show us the money

'We're trying to understand the future of cash'.

A Reserve Bank survey in 2018 showed 89 percent of people prefer to use a payment method other than cash. Some people are now anxious at the prospect of living in a cashless world. Representatives from various community organisations air their concerns with Mark Peters...

From barter to bitcoin, the form of currency continues to evolve but people from various community organisations in Gisborne are concerned at the prospect of a cashless society.

“It discriminates against the elderly or people who don't have cognitive abilities,” said Craft and Care Centre manager Dot McCulloch.

“There's been no consultation with any groups apart from business groups. New Zealand doesn't involve just the business world. Issues are starting to emerge for a lot of people.”

A cashless society would signal the end of community connections through face-to-face operations such as raffles, the Farmers' Market and koha, said Tairawhiti Positive Ageing Trust trustee, Judy Livingstone.

“Does the Reserve Bank want to get rid of cash?” says an FAQ on the bank's website.

“No. The Reserve Bank believes cash will be around for some time. It does want to understand the implications of less cash being used, particularly if it becomes harder to get and use by people who don't have other ways to pay.”

Since June 8, Co-operative Bank customers are no longer able to make cash withdrawals.

The demise of cheques is also a concern for many people accustomed to using them, said the community organisation representatives.

Inland Revenue and Accident Compensation Corporation this year stopped accepting cheques from customers who are able to use alternative payment options. NZ Post and Kiwibank stopped accepting cheques in February while the BNZ and ANZ plan to ditch cheques next year. ASB is also phasing out cheques, which it says now account for less than 1 percent of its payments.

“When Kiwibank started I thought they were for the people of New Zealand but they were the ones to do away with cheques,” said Mrs McCulloch.

“I'm all for change in some things but this is not a good thing.”

Banks 'should be customer-focused in regards to the elderly'

Cognitive ability was needed to understand non-cash transactional processes, said Brain Injury Association Gisborne manager Mrs Jenny Grzeda.

“With stroke and brain injuries you see fatigue, frustration and anxiety. Marry this into the equation of trying to get your head around using a computer or from switching from one system to another system.”

“Banks should be customer-focused in regards to the elderly,” said Age Concern Gisborne chief executive Frances Toroa.

“There are obvious reasons. Banking online can be confusing. The focus should be on customer needs. They should focus on the elderly and research what they require.”

That comes down to money and reduced staff numbers, said Mrs Livingstone.

“The business model does not always meet the market. They need to service the elderly. It's like you're a nuisance to them. Not everyone has connectivity. Even getting a cellphone to work in some parts up the East Coast is difficult, and there are no ATMs.”

During lockdown, a lot of people learned how to use a computer from family members, she said.

“Banks should run free workshops for people. Older people want to give it a go but don't know how.”

“We want face-to-face contact,” said Mrs Toroa.

“I envisage a lot of financial abuse. Elder abuse can be financial. Online, it's more predatory,” she said.

“I have a 92-year-old mum who feels changes were sprung on her,” said Mrs Grzeda.

“That's where she is confused. There's been nothing in the paper.”

“Seniors know the world is changing but when you're older you can't retain that knowledge,” said Mrs Livingstone.

“We have to open doors in understanding but banks have to do it. They will disengage and we will see problems,” said Mrs Toroa.

The future of cash

As part of its mission to develop advice to the Government on what might be needed to ensure the cash system continues to evolve in a way that means people who rely on cash for purchases are not left without access to cash or suitable alternatives, Reserve Bank (RB) representatives visited Gisborne last year.

“We think New Zealand should be making conscious decisions about the future of cash so that we can be prepared for future innovations, and ensure that sectors of society are not unfairly disadvantaged because cash falls out of favour,” said RB governor Adrian Orr.

The RB's Future of Cash —Te Moni Anamata team's RB external communications adviser Peter Northcote and cultural capability adviser Ngarimu Parata discussed with retailers and business people their experience, needs and views on cash.

“We're trying to understand the future of cash,” said Mr Northcote.

“Where is the greatest use of cash? What economic action is happening out there?”

The benefits and uses of cash include currency as a medium of exchange, and that cash is simple, physical and facilitates instant settlement.

“Since BC we've been dealing in money and it gets around barter. The flip side of cash value is risk.”

Retailers do not have to accept cash and some are already working with electronic exchange. Many supermarkets already have a mix of cash and electronic transaction systems; debit card-use is on the rise; cellphones and watches can also now be used for paywave payments and Facebook has proposed Libra, a cryptocurrency (a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange).

“If cash fell out of fashion that would cause problems in some communities,” said Mr Northcote.

More and more stores are going cashless but some families have no bank accounts.

When cannabis was legalised in Canada, bank cards became more frequently used, said Mr Northcote.

“Then people began to realise banks can see what people are doing so cash came back.”

Cash also costs a surprising amount of money. It costs a lot to make, store and transport.

“No user of cash pays towards it,” said Mr Northcote.

Neither is there any requirement for banks to deal in cash.

Show us the money

Figures in an RBNZ survey last year showed 89 percent of people preferred to use a payment method other than cash — only 6 percent used cash in the previous week while 31 percent used cash for transactional purposes at least three times a week or more. Almost 25 percent of people had not used cash in the previous week.

Generational differences in the use of cash were broadly outlined in that while 75 percent of people carried cash, 64 percent of them were 18 to 29 years old and 80 percent were 60-plus years old.

“We think that's potentially an issue,” said Mr Northcote.

The disappearance of cash could have a severe negative effect on people who are digitally or financially excluded. Among such people are those with disabilities, the elderly, Pacific or Maori communities; people in rural communities and those who have no identification documents.

COMMUNITY CARE: Airing on behalf of various community organisations people’s concerns about New Zealand becoming a cashless society are Brain Injury Association Gisborne manager Jenny Grzeda, Tairawhiti Positive Ageing Trust trustee Judy Livingston, Age Concern Gisborne chief executive Frances Toroa, Craft and Care Centre manager Dot McCulloch, and Care And Craft volunteer Carol Pollard. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell
SWIPE AND GO: People's growing use of bank cards has been made even easier with paywave, which requires no contact and no pin. Picture supplied

  1. Peter Jones says:

    When the power goes off, cash is king.
    If you want privacy, cash is king.
    If you can be stripped of your money at the press of a button, you are a slave to the system.
    Younger people who have accepted electronic lives are in for a rude awakening if cash ever gets kicked to the curb.

  2. Peter Jones says:

    A twenty dollar note does not discriminate.
    It holds the same value for the elderly, mentally infirm or even criminals.
    It still works whether you are Covid-19 positive or not.
    It can’t be deducted because you failed to observe social distancing rules or you crossed the street without using a crossing.