Digital Banking: Swings and Roundabouts – Peter Smith

I am treasurer of my church. Most people now give via online banking but there is still cash and cheque giving on Sundays. I used to bank the offering each week but Westpac closed its local branch earlier this year, as did St George owned by Westpac some months before. Now, because I have to drive to a branch which is still open, I bank each month.

Last month I banked the money but it didn’t appear in the church’s account. I phoned the branch but just got an answering service to say I would be called back. I wasn’t. Had to drive to the branch to sort it out.

Soon cheques will be abandoned. The banks don’t want to process a dwindling number of cheques so got the government to make a ruling that cheques will be phased out by 2030. Good for the banks. No more cheques to process and the blame for ending paying by cheque falls on the government. Win-win. It’s another subject, but you’ve got to think that cash will be next. Much harder to do but eventually governments are going to try. Once cheques and cash are gone every transaction will be traceable. They’ll know a lot more about you.

But back to banking. I understand the advantages of operating online – to pay bills, to transfer money etc. The problem is the gradually reducing availability of face-to face banking. Branches are closing and, in those remaining, there is now no branch manager to talk to. You have make an appointment with a banking advisor or some such. Or, do what you want to do online or by phone.

Retired I wanted a credit card with Westpac. What a joke. After being passed up the line I spoke to someone who sounded young. He said we can’t give you a card because you don’t have a regular income. I said, well look at my longstanding account with your bank, you’ll see that each year I deposit a sum of money from my self-managed superannuation fund. He said, it doesn’t come in regularly. I said, no, I put it in a few times year, as needed. We need to see a regular income to give you a card, he said adamantly. The conversation went on but eventually I concluded I was talking to an idiot. Or, to be kind, perhaps his computer said no.

Why is it with all of this digital convenience at my fingertips do I feel deprived? Is this progress? Malcom Muggeridge once said that there is no such thing as progress, though I can’t seem to find the quote. Tend to think he’s right. There’s just pluses and minuses signifying nothing.

28 responses to “Digital Banking: Swings and Roundabouts – Peter Smith”

  1. Petros Avatar

    Why not switch to Bank of Queensland or Bendigo? They don’t seem to be closing branches down like the majors.

  2. miltonf Avatar

    Newcastle Permanent

  3. flyingduk Avatar

    Cash has pretty much gone already, with people electing to ‘tap’ for everything. Pity they dont understand this leaves them vulnerable to system outages and (increasingly) central surveillance and censorship of their transactions. I first bought BTC over 8 years ago for its censorship resistant feature. I expect it and other cryptos (and more traditional methods like barter and precious metals) will make a resurgence to meet the need for transactional freedom and privacy once CBDCs come in.

  4. shatterzzz Avatar

    A few years ago whilst opening a savings account with Westpac they rejected my birth certificate as a proof of identity cos I hadn’t signed it …..
    Sez all you need to konw about bank staff & intelligence .. LOL!

  5. Andrew Avatar

    Try and sort out something with the online app or over the phone. Good luck with that!!! My bank has a high tech app that you are supposed to interact with and it literally asks the same three idiot questions in a row then returns to the start of the loop. Infuriating.

  6. Steve from kenmore Avatar
    Steve from kenmore

    In London in April this year, everything was digital, even the Tube! They had also made the old paper notes invalid and replaced by new polymer notes in December 2022. Had to go to Bank of England to get new notes with a 2 hour wait. Airstrip One is there.

  7. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare Avatar
    Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    I run a credit card with under five thousand limit for purchases that I make online. It is not with either of our usual banks. We have also used it as a useful emergency card when travelling and something goes wrong with the majors. When in the bank one day I thought I should up the credit limit but the palaver I would have had to undergo to make that simple upgrade – proving my identity and my regular personal income (not our joint income, nor our cash assets, both of which are substantial) annoyed me hugely. I do have a senior lecturer’s personal superannuation streamed income every fortnight from 30 years of solid working, which is easily proven, as well as income in my name from investments, but why our excellent financial position (balances available to show them immediately) and my twenty years of unblemished holding of this particular card was not relevant for an immediate few thousand dollars of upgrade meant that I didn’t bother. Too demeaning. Nor will I ever consider this bank for our serious banking when moving around assets. Friends tell me about many other credit cards they use, and I am tempted to close down the insulting one and go elsewhere. If I have to go to any trouble I won’t go to it for these mingy bankers.

  8. Bluey Avatar

    I’ve found increasing numbers of businesses refuse cash. I try to make a point to those in the service industry they’re losing out on tips.
    It’s easy to drop the few coins, or small notes that round out a payment into a jar. Paying by card just pays the amount due and bad luck to the drone, not that I expect they’ll be around too much longer with the automation of things.

  9. Roger Avatar

    Better off without a credit card, Peter; use a debit card – same features, no interest.

    In terms of credit, as far as most banks are concerned retirees are in the land of the living dead.

  10. Muddy Avatar

    Coerced consumer demand.
    Make payment by cash more difficult/less available (easier in supermarkets of course) and then claim that more consumers are using the no-cash option, therefore your business is simply meeting consumer demand.

  11. Davey Boy Avatar
    Davey Boy


    I had a “Certificate of Birth” for years as an ID document. It was obtained by my parents at my birth and then given to me when I was old enough.

    One day not that long ago (when applying for a passport) it was deemed useless, as the shiny bums said I needed a “Birth Certificate”.

  12. Rufus T Firefly Avatar
    Rufus T Firefly

    The “Mammy” singer in Canada, proved how dangerous the Central Digital Currency is for private citizens.

    Any donation of more than $50 Canadian, to the Truckers, was tracked, (by his loving Govt), and the accounts of those people were frozen.
    This is not China, or Russia, or North Korea, this is the so called Democracy of Canada.
    Introduction of a CDC will be the final nail in the coffin of freedom.
    Every transaction you do, will be tracked. If you offend the “powers at be”, for example by donating to a cause deemed unworthy, by the “fact checkers”, you will be cancelled, much worse than Nigel Farage.

    Remember, “democracy” is not and has never been, the political system of the majority.
    We are fast losing ours.
    Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.

  13. flyingduk Avatar

    I’ve found increasing numbers of businesses refuse cash

    Always best to have filled the car, eaten the meal or filled the trolley before broaching this ;). I just ignore the signs, consume the product, then offer cash .

  14. Bruce Avatar

    Just more provocation designed to push people over the edge of reason, so that the Grubberment can put the boot even harder on the necks of the peasantry.

  15. Damon Avatar

    I use cards for most shopping, not that I do much, but always carry about $1-200 in cash.

  16. Sam1250 Avatar

    I always use cash if they don’t want it I go elsewhere, but let them know that’s what I’m to going to do. I read recently that a lot of young people have woken up that cash is a great way to budget they withdraw their pay in cash and put it in an envelope and can see how much is left, too easy with a card to over spend.

  17. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare Avatar
    Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    In terms of credit, as far as most banks are concerned retirees are in the land of the living dead.

    Yes, that’s what irked me. Yet they heavily rely on us keeping heaps of our money in casho with them at risible rates of interest, kept there because we want to keep it handy for giving to kids, or grandkids, and for our wayward spending of our own hard earned. Plus elders’ health. We need to have a few hundred thousand for that sudden belt over to the US for the latest in treatments to keep us alive should that axe fall. Worth paying for, we think, and so old people keep ready cash handy.

    Banks are leeching off us for that.

  18. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare Avatar
    Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    I’d encourage young people to keep their earnings in a weekly cash envelope.

    It’s very easy to be spendthrift with a card far removed from eventual payment.
    We know that when we see gambling venues being forced to limit ATM withdrawals.
    Punters just don’t see money on cards as real.

  19. Old Lefty Avatar
    Old Lefty

    The real reason banks won’t give retirees credit cards is, I’m told, that most retirees are on top of their finances and are likely to pay off their balance in full every month. That deprives that banks of the exorbitant interest rates they charge the unfortunates who can’t pay the full balance. Even during the GFC/Covid are when deposit rates were close to zero, they were still screwing 20 per cent out of Visa and MasterCard customers.

    If you can pay your full balance, they are very handy. None of the transaction fees they charge for withdrawing cash, and a good rate on mine for cashing the reward points at Flight Centre. I call my MasterCard the travel fund because it often covers half the cost of a trip

  20. Damon Avatar

    I have two accounts. One a ‘savings’account that pays a risible rare of interest,I use to pay off credit cards. The other deals in real money, and covers itself in glory, with substantial interest payments every month.

  21. Dot Avatar

    I’d encourage young people to keep their earnings in a weekly cash envelope.

    It’s very easy to be spendthrift with a card far removed from eventual payment.

    Even Dave Ramsey has Every Dollar for Americans.

    Just use crypto. If you stop using banks they can’t treat you like trash.

  22. Alamak! Avatar

    A few interesting data points from Singapore:

    – small shops mostly won’t accept cards due to the bank charges
    – many taxis will only take cash as MC/Visa charge too much
    – an app exists for getting cash from local shops, avoiding ATMs & banks completely

    Not sure what it will take for Oz businesses to shake off the dependence on the Banks but its not good them close branches, reduce cash services and become fulltime compliance and tax monitoring agencies for the Govt.

    Just use crypto

    Exactly, the rates on defi lending and speed of transfer services make Banks look pathetic.

    So it might be we have to trade off ease of use(tap that card …) for managing cash & checking credit risk.

  23. LBLoveday Avatar

    Can’t help out with Muggeridge on progress, but I liked this one:

    There is no such thing as darkness; only a failure to see.

  24. Louis Litt Avatar
    Louis Litt

    Old Lefty and Alaska
    Spot in – the banks treat us like effin idiots.
    Recall the late 1990s with the frequent flyer points and some eunuch from some bank or banking association said that the Australian public were not using the system how it was meant to work. Ozzie’s were buying day to days stuff, especially businesses, and accruing frequent flyer points.
    The banks and the airlines did not like this.

  25. Kingsley Avatar

    I’m sure a couple of red states in the US have legislated business must accept cash.

  26. Diogenes Avatar

    The real reason banks won’t give retirees credit cards is, I’m told, that most retirees are on top of their finances and are likely to pay off their balance in full every month. T

    An uncle was clever enough to get a pile of credit cards with reasonably high credit limits, only in his name before he retired. When his super ran out, he supplemented the pension with his CCS, being careful to pay the minimum off each card, and doing the payments shuffle. When he died, he owed 100k on the cards. Because cc debt is unsecured, the bank(s) were told, ” so sorry, no money for you” and had to write the debt off.

    This may be another reason they don’t like us oldies having ccs

  27. John Bennetts Avatar
    John Bennetts

    Not mentioned in the above posts, my primary objection to the emerging credit/debit card future is that many businesses add a charge, ranging up to 2%, to each transaction.

    I use cash, to avoid that impost.

    Those businesses need to manage cash, which costs them money to do and has risks of its own.

    My objections would evaporate if they did not add those charges.

  28. Pyrmonter Avatar

    The long answer is ‘Responsible Lending’ – the legislative response to the excuses made by debtors who complain that roving bands of marauding banksters forced them to take out personal loans, credit cards and the like. The bank now has to have rules to ensure it is lending to people who can afford to pay; and someone without an income may not be able to.

    Why do you want a credit card anyway? The risk you forget a monthly payment and pay the extortionate interest rates would have to far outweigh the benefits v’s having a debit card.

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