COVID-19 FAQs

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The system that distributes cash from the Reserve Bank and out to the public through the commercial banks and their ATM and branch networks is working well.

The Reserve Bank is in regular contact with the major banks’ cash operations and key service suppliers to the cash system. We are monitoring trends and all of us are ready to identify and respond to any issues that might arise during COVID-19 restrictions.

ATMs are essential services under COVID-19 restrictions. ATM cash deposit and withdrawal facilities and the system that supports them are functioning well and there is plenty of cash available. Cash withdrawals have dropped during COVID-19 restrictions.

Essential services (such as supermarkets, service stations and pharmacies) should be accepting cash payments if customers cannot pay using contactless or card methods.

All banks have COVID-19 pages on their websites telling you about assistance and service changes, including branch opening hours (when permitted).

Retailers offering essential services (such as supermarkets, pharmacies and petrol stations) should be supporting shoppers who can only pay with cash, but there is no legal requirement for them to do so.

Shoppers who can only pay with cash are more likely to be vulnerable, young, elderly, poor, disabled, or seasonal workers.

Some businesses are balancing the different concerns by asking people to pay with contactless or card payments if possible, and then providing limited checkouts accepting cash for those who have no other way to pay.

Non-essential businesses may decline cash at times when they are only permitted to open for contactless service.

There is no legal requirement for businesses to accept cash as long as they let customers know before starting to shop or receive services.

When permitted, banks may have limited numbers of branches open for shortened hours. Please wear a mask and practice appropriate hand hygiene if you need to visit one.  Branches may control customer numbers to maintain physical distancing requirements. Branches will generally be prioritising personal customers who rely on cash for daily purchases, or who cannot use ATMs, cards, apps or online services to meet their banking needs.

Banks are balancing safety, service, and staffing during COVID-19 – as well meeting their alert level restrictions and their usual obligations to help and protect vulnerable customers, identify customers properly, and monitor suspicious transactions.

Banks have COVID-19 information along with general product and service information on their websites. You should check these and – if possible – do your business at an ATM, online, or on a phone app or call.

Banks may limit the size of cash transactions over the counter or ask you to arrange these ahead of time. Large cash transactions by a few customers during short opening hours may reduce the number of customers who can be served or mean that cash is not available for the other customers who rely on it. Large cash withdrawals or deposits are also a robbery and loss risk, particularly for customers.

Arrangements for business customers to deposit takings or withdraw change orders may be different due to COVID-19 impacts or unrelated commercial changes to service offerings or terms. Check your bank’s website for COVID-19 and general business customer products and service information, or talk with them online or on the phone to discuss your options.

Be kind to bank staff. If they cannot resolve an issue for you or put you in touch with someone who can, then please use your bank’s complaints process - generally found under “Contact Us” on its website.

Try another ATM nearby, and remember you can use any bank’s ATM. You won’t be charged a fee just for using another bank’s ATM. ATMs are an essential service, and you may travel – including by public transport – to an ATM close to home.

It is not unusual for ATM’s to close down occasionally for any number of reasons. Some street-facing ATM’s will be more difficult to fill as they require entry through a business that may be closed. Naturally, ATMs located inside premises that are currently closed – such as malls - cannot be used.

Banks are offering a wide range of services online and over the phone or online. Details of branch opening hours (when permitted) – as well as ATM locations – should be on banks’ websites.

There is no need to “stash your cash”. Withdrawing large amounts of cash risks loss or robbery. Essential service businesses which are open generally prefer you to pay with contactless or card payments if you are able – rather than using cash. The overall banking system remains safe and sound.

It is generally a good idea to have some cash on hand should you not be able to use a card for any reason, however electronic payment systems are resilient. If power or data services are disrupted then many businesses, including service stations and supermarkets, are unlikely to be able to process any transactions, including cash payments.

Yes, cash is safe to use when used responsibly. Using cash responsibly means wearing a mask when shopping, and washing or sanitizing your hands afterwards (as you should after touching any surface touched by someone else outside your bubble).

We understand that some shoppers and retailers are preferring to avoid cash transactions at the moment to speed up transactions and reduce face time and physical contact.

Cash can and should continue to be accepted for essential purchases, but retailers are not legally required to accept cash. We know that there are some people, who are generally more vulnerable, who cannot pay without using cash.

Everyone needs to remember that all shopping and payment methods involve people being closer to each other and surface contacts - so masks and good hand hygiene remains essential whatever way you pay or receive payment.

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