Use of Cash in Sharp Decline

A new survey by the Reserve Bank has found that New Zealanders' use of cash has declined sharply in the pandemic.

Just 63 percent of Kiwis now use cash at all, the RBNZ's 2021 Cash Use Survey has found. That's a big decrease from 2019 when the survey found 96 percent still used cash. Of those who do use cash, 40 percent now do so less than twice a week.

The 2021 Cash Use Survey is the third in a series, following surveys in 2019 and 2017.

The proportion of New Zealanders who relied on cash remained steady at 6 percent, but the drop in those paying with cash was significant, said RBNZ head of money and cash Ian Woolford.

"As in previous years, these people are more likely to be older, poorer, living rurally, or Māori.”

The main reason people said they still used cash was for shops and stalls that only used cash. The proportion of "heavy" cash users dropped to 2 percent in 2021, from 5 percent in 2017.

Of cash users, 8 percent said they found it somewhat difficult or very difficult to get cash out while 24 percent said the same about depositing cash.

Meanwhile, it was clear that having some cash stored away was increasingly important for many during times of uncertainty, Woolford said. The percentage of Kiwis keeping a store of cash rose from 37 to 46 percent from 2017 to 2021.

The Reserve Bank has a long-term project under way looking at redesigning the cash system to match the changes in usage.

"We're wanting input to develop the right set of policies to ensure the cash system is resilient and efficient in the face of changes in use and availability,” said Reserve Bank deputy governor, Christian Hawkesby.