Cashless technologies mean that fewer Australians are carrying money around, and now the banks are going ahead with removing large numbers of automatic transaction machines (ATMs) from service.
With several factors combining to make the availability of ATMs of less direct concern to Australian banks, maintaining them is no longer as financially viable.
Doing away with the fees that users incurred when they opted for an ATM that their bank did not run was a positive move for the average Australian but meant a shortfall of millions of dollars for banks. This, alongside the decrease in the number of people in the country using cash, indicates that the ATM phase-out is likely to happen sooner than previously predicted.
ATMs reached their peak back in 2016 with just under 33,000 available, which suggests that the need for them was still growing up until that point.
Figures from the last year show that this number has changed rapidly. Major lenders indicated that they chopped a quarter of their ATM holdings across 2018. Technology has encouraged this sea change and finally reached the standard of enabling generally cashless services, but rural areas are still more likely to need to be able to get hold of cash.
The most recent figures from the Australian Payments Network (APN) show that the number of ATMs in Australia had fallen by nearly 6% in the last year to September, which details how these machines have been phasing out for a while longer than the public was aware.
At the end of last year, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) confirmed that it was looking into a singular utility company taking in the ATMs and operating them, which would free up banks from having to keep them running and ensure that cash was available for those who needed it. However, such talks have yet to reach a conclusion, and no deal is yet likely to be on the table.
National Australia Bank (NAB) has gotten rid of over of a quarter of its ATMs, bringing the total number down to 923 as of this month. NAB Executive General Manager for Retail Krissie Jones said that this move was in response to ‘the way Australians are using and accessing their cash’ and that card payments are becoming more prevalent in comparison. As NAB adds in the loss of ATM fees, Jones said that although the machines are becoming less available, customers still have more choice when making withdrawals.
Westpac said that it is keeping an eye on developments, but with over 2,800 machines, it still has the second-largest number of ATMs in Australia. It has gotten rid of more ATMs than NAB, and its average overall decrease in cash withdrawals was at 8.6% last year.
A Westpac spokesperson said that the bank’s decision on which ATMs to keep and which to remove was based on ‘usage, location, proximity to other services and community needs.’
As an increasing number of people reduce the cash payments that they make, the number of ATMs available for Australians should fall further in 2019.