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6th April, 2020

Should I stop accepting cash payments during the COVID19 outbreak?

As social distancing measures and enforced lockdowns come into play as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, can business owners better protect themselves by refusing to accept cash payments?

The world was already heading towards more cashless transactions than ever before COVID19 emerged. Now the outbreak is accelerating the transition.

Research conducted by Mccrindle for MYOB shows 78 percent of respondents say they like the ease of tap-and-go payments, and 63 percent use their card “most of the time”.

And 62 percent say they don’t like cash-only stores.

MYOB Chief Economist Jon Manning says there’s a very real possibility that when this outbreak is over, cash payments might be a thing of the past.

“We’ve already adapted to many behaviour changes since coronavirus was first detected only a few months ago,” said Manning.

“As many of these changes may move to permanence, it’s important for businesses and consumers to consider what moving to contactless means to them and their finances.”

Clearly, if there was a time to go cashless, it’s now.

Here are the key takeaways:

  • You don’t have a legal obligation to accept cash payments
  • But, if you want to make a switch to cashless, you’ll want to communicate it clearly as many Australians still use it regularly, or even depend on it
  • There are a few things you can consider to make the switch even more compelling for your loyal customers

What are businesses doing now?


Even before Australia went on lockdown, concerns regarding the spread of coronavirus via cash had been raised.

In one case, British media reported the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned businesses should avoid physical cash to crackdown on spreading the virus, however this has turned out not to be the case. WHO since confirmed that this is not the case, as there was no compelling evidence this was the case.

And, in the past few weeks, Australian businesses have taken extreme measures:

  • On 26 March, 2020, EB Games announced it would only accept cashless payments
  • The head of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association has told the ABC that shops should move to cashless payments
  • Recently, an Aldi spokesperson said it is encouraging customers to use contactless payments where possible
  • And now we’ve learned the limit on contactless EFTPOS payments will be lifted to $200 to make it even easier for people to go cash free

For businesses who mostly deal in cash, or at least depend on cash for transactions, this can be a shock.

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But there are serious concerns about handling cash right now


We know the virus can spread on surfaces, including cash. The more you avoid using cash, the better your chances are of avoiding the virus.

Plus, you’ll avoid passing it on to any other customers when you give change.

So how should businesses handle the question of cash during the COVID19 outbreak?


You are allowed to decline using cash


Any business is able to set the terms of its own trade, which includes contactless payments. You can go completely cashless if you want. The law is clearly about this: you do not have to accept cash.

Here’s an excerpt from an article written by MacDonnell’s Law:

‘Currency and legal tender in Australia is governed by two commonwealth pieces of legislation, the Currency Act 1965 and the Reserve Bank Act 1959.

There is no law against a business refusing to accept cash for goods and services or only accepting cash for goods and services.

‘A business is well within its rights to dictate its terms of trade to its customers.

‘A business also has the right to refuse to take coins and notes in a number of circumstances.’

Here are some simple steps you can take to make the transition to cashless payments in your place of business:

1. Move to contactless payments as much as possible

Card terminals that allow contactless payments are readily available, and easy to access. There are multiple providers, including Square, Tyro, and others sourced through the major banks.

2. Encourage your customers to use contactless

Place signage, or send communications to customers letting them know you will prefer contactless payments.

Or, better yet, if you refuse cash at all, let your customers now that you’ll temporarily be taking only contactless payments.

3. Establish clear guidelines for contactless payments

The Mccrindle research we conducted found some pretty interesting statistics about consumer preferences in payments:

  • 81% don’t like minimums when paying with a card in store
  • 62% don’t like cash only stores
  • 44% say they don’t like EFTPOS minimums
  • 53% don’t want to pay any surcharges for tap-and-go payments
  • 72% of people still don’t use their mobile phone for payments

What does this mean for your business?


It means that if you do get rid of cash (for now), you need to make some concessions. Get rid of minimums if you can, and reduce surcharges. Again, if you can.

But we’d strongly encourage it if you want to get your loyal customers on board with the change quickly and easily.