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Cashless society: How will going cash free affect students, charities and businesses?

Nicholas Jordan
Nicholas said without his cash-in-hand jobs, he wouldn't have been able to afford anything outside the bare necessities of rent, food and bills.

ABC News: Laura Brierley Newton

Low-income workers, charities and small business owners are set to feel the biggest impact from Australia's shift towards becoming completely cash free.

Experts argue Australia could be completely cash free by 2020, accelerated by new technology that will be introduced by the Reserve Bank of Australia later this year.

The RBA's New Payment Platform (NPP) system will make electronic payments faster and easier.

So, in a world without paper money, who are the people that will be most affected?

Cash-in-hand workers

Cash-in-hand jobs are a lifesaver for a lot of babysitters, cleaners, and hospitality workers, but it's a black market that is set to change.

Experts argue eliminating paper money will enable the Government to bring in millions of dollars in lost tax revenue.

Nicholas Jordan said when he was studying at university, he scraped by financially by supplementing Youth Allowance with cash-in-hand jobs and dumpster diving.

"No-one declares money that they get if it's cash in hand, because people need the money — not everyone has rich parents that they can rely on."

He said without his cash-in-hand jobs, he wouldn't have been able to afford anything outside the bare necessities of rent, food and bills.

"I guess I would have had no quality in life really … I couldn't have done anything else.

"I'm not talking about stuff like going out and getting drunk every night, I mean like being able to go to the movies every two weeks or have a cheap dinner out at a Thai place, or something like that."

Colin Ho said when he was at university, living on just Youth Allowance "wasn't enough".

He said during those years he worked in a bookshop, where he was paid on the books, but supplemented that with tutoring work.

"It meant I had a buffer and didn't have to worry about groceries," he said.

Charities move to pay wave

Charities are keeping up with the times by revolutionising the way they collect donations.

Andrew Hill, the community fundraising director for the Salvation Army, said they are just about to roll out a pilot program for a device called the Quest Donation Point Tap Machine.

Close up of a woman's hands holding a white bucket with The Salvation Army written in red on it
The Salvation Army says they have seen a rise in digital donations.

ABC Central West: Melanie Pearce

"It's a pre-set donation pay wave, so it will set the amount — could be $10, $20. People can just tap their card and get a receipt," he said.

Mr Hill said people had become more and more comfortable with donating to them digitally over the years.

He said not only were they happy to donate in that way, on average they were donating more.

But he said smaller charities would struggle in the digital move, as many would not have the ability to roll out technology on such a large scale.

The Smith Family's head of fundraising, Rosie Simpson, said they had noticed people donated more digitally, than those do who donated in cash.

"And that's consistent I think with the data that you see retailers and so forth have been quoting over the years," she said.

"Because it's easier, people do tend to spend more."

Small business owners smacked with hidden fees

Alex Dowd, co-owner of Sydney bars Tios and The Cliff Dive, said the cost of going cashless had become a financial issue for his businesses.

Any business running eftpos machines are typically charged a surcharge of between 1.3 per cent and 1.5 per cent.

Mr Dowd said that cost was the same for both big and small businesses — but while many big businesses are capable of absorbing the cost, it can have a big impact on smaller businesses.

As more customers pay with eftpos, Mr Dowd said they were trying to figure out the best way to handle the cost.

Alex Dowd, co-owner of Tios and the Cliff Dive bar
Small business owner Alex Dowd says they are charged a surcharge for every eftpos transcation.

ABC News: Laura Brierley Newton

"It's either we pass on a surcharge or put up the prices," he said.

"We're just trying to figure out the best way to do it to ensure that people understand what the reality of it is for us."

Mr Dowd said some businesses might decide to put their prices up to try and absorb the costs.

Cash free 'cleaner'

A society free from cash might also be a cleaner one.

Marcus Chang is the CEO of Kensington Street, and runs Spice Alley, a completely cashless food market.

He said one of the major reasons they chose to make Spice Alley a cashless system was because of the issue of germs.

"There's nothing worse than getting a sandwich and then the [worker] handles the money and your food and you go, 'oh no, don't touch my food with your dirty hands'."

So is cash as germ-infested as some believe?

Marcus Chang, the CEO of Kensington Street Holdings, the company in charge of operations at Spice Alley
Marcus Chang says one reason they made Spice Alley cashless was because of germs.

ABC News: Michael Edwards

The Dirty Money Project, an ongoing study being conducted at New York University's Centre for Genomics and Systems Biology, analysed the genetic material on a $US1 bill and identified 3,000 kinds of bacteria.

While that may not sound surprising to many, as cash moves around from hand to hand all day long, the problem, as Mr Chang suggests, is that people handling your food are also handling that dirty money.

ATMs are not much better when it comes to cleanliness.

Last year it was reported tests carried out by sanitation and hygiene management company EarthEcco on various surfaces had found ATM key pads were well below the recommended level of cleanliness.

So perhaps a cash-free society would lead to one less avenue for germs to get into your system.