Will COVID-19 break our cash habit?

30 Mar 2020

As local businesses seek to limit exposure for staff to coronavirus, cash handling has become an  increased focus for retailers, hospitality businesses and public transport operators.

But according to the latest research from leading tech company MYOB, our cash habit may be hard to break, with 53% of Kiwis usually carrying cash.

MYOB NZ Country Manager Ingrid Cronin-Knight says while a number of local businesses are now seeking to go to card-only transactions, it is important to recognise that many New Zealanders still rely on cash for a range of transactions.

As of this week, cash will no longer be accepted on Auckland Transport buses and trains, buses and ferries operated in the capital by Metlink will also go cash-free in order to reduce infection pathways for drivers and ticketing staff.

“Surprisingly, many New Zealanders are still in the habit of carrying cash, with a small but significant number relying on it for regular payments,” says Ingrid Cronin-Knight.

“So any strategy to reduce reliance on cash in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 will need to be accompanied by a comprehensive education campaign.”

According to MYOB’s survey of over 1,000 consumers around the country, 12% of New Zealanders use cash most of the time, while half sometimes make purchases using cash.

Carrying cash is more common for older people, with 61% of people aged 56 – 74 and 75% of those aged over 75 usually having cash on them. Surprisingly, though, half of all 18 – 25 years olds regularly carry cash, and 16% of this age group use it most of the time.

According to the survey, cash is most commonly used for entertainment, with 17% paying at bars restaurants, cafes and events using cash, while 13% use cash to pay for groceries, 12% for clothes purchases and 11% to buy homewares.

“While experts have been predicting the end of cash for some time, it is a well ingrained habit,” says Ingrid Cronin-Knight. “Survey respondents also told us they prefer to use cash to reduce bank fees and surcharges, and to avoid eftpos minimums.”

“But interestingly, about 55% of respondents say they just like the tangible feel of paying with cash.”

Ms Cronin-Knight says it is likely one of the many changes the COVID-19 pandemic brings is a significant reduction in the use of cash.

“But how this is manged will need to be carefully considered, especially to avoid further restricting and isolating older people who regularly use cash, and to recognise that many of us prefer to have a cash reserve on hand for emergencies – especially in times like this.”

“Efforts like the banks’ move to reduce costs for retailers to use contactless payment systems will likely help make those my widespread, but the cost of transaction and withdrawal fees are also something that is holding New Zealanders back from using their cards more frequently.”


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For more information please contact:

Janelle Ericksen, MYOB, PR Specialist

E: janelle.ericksen@myob.com


Gerard Blank, The Agency Communications Limited, Director

E: gerard@theagencynz.co.nz


About MYOB

MYOB is a leading provider of cloud-based business management solutions. With an offering of over 50 solutions, MYOB makes life easier for approximately 1.2 million businesses across Australia and New Zealand. The MYOB software spans the full lifecycle of a business from sole traders to larger enterprises with over 1,000 employees. MYOB also provides ongoing support to a network of over 40,000 accountants, bookkeepers and other consultants. They are committed to ongoing innovation, particularly through the Connected Practice Strategy and through development of the MYOB Platform. For more information visit myob.com or follow @MYOB on Twitter.


About the MYOB Cash Economy survey

The MYOB Cash Economy is a national survey of 1,000+ New Zealand consumers aged 18 and over, commissioned to independent market research firm McCrindle. This survey ran in February/March 2020.