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Rural towns invited to apply for cash service trials as challenges for cash users grow

Rural towns are showing keen interest in trying new ways to meet their residents cash banking needs, which are increasingly going unmet due to commercial banks’ shrinking physical networks and cash services.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand – Te Pūtea Matua has today opened applications for towns wanting to trial either local cash depots with automated cash banking facilities that work with all banks, or a security van service.

“Retailers and their customers are frustrated by cash banking difficulties, especially in rural New Zealand,” says Ian Woolford, the Reserve Bank’s Director of Money and Cash.

“New Zealanders still value the option of using cash, and we want to see if better local cash infrastructure, and supporting retailers to readily offer cash-outs will help keep the option available.

“Since announcing the trials in December we’ve received nearly 80 expressions of interest. Towns need to have populations between 1,000 and 10,000 residents, and to have lost most or all cash banking services to be considered eligible for the trials,” Mr Woolford says.

Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank published today its latest two-yearly postal survey of cash use and payments preferences, which confirms continuing decline in New Zealanders’ use of cash for everyday purposes. Respondents using cash use for everyday purposes fell to 57.2% in 2023, down from 60.4% in 2021 and 95.8% in 2019.

“People living in rural areas found it harder to access cash services, like withdrawal and deposit, than those living in urban areas. Overall, the top reason given by respondents for difficulty accessing cash services was that there was no ATM or bank branch in their area. This reinforces the rationale for the trials,” says Mr Woolford.

“The Reserve Bank is committed to ensure that New Zealanders can continue to access, use, and bank cash as they need or prefer.  Alongside the trials we have work underway to define a reasonable level of cash access that Kiwis can expect, and to develop tools to ensure that level of access is met.

2023 cash use survey selected key findings


  • Māori respondents were more likely to prefer to use cash as one of their payment methods than non-Māori.
  • People living in rural areas found it harder to access cash services, like withdrawal and deposit, than those living in urban areas.
  • Survey respondents using cash for everyday purposes was 57.2% in 2023, a significant decline from 60.4% in 2021, and 95.8% in 2019. 
  • People who reported using cash more than 7 times in the past 7 days increased significantly to 8.3% in 2023 from 5.6% in 2021.
  • The most important reasons given for using cash were “I shop in some places that will only take cash” and “some payments are so small I don’t like to use a card for them.”
  • There was a significant increase in respondents reporting privacy and safety concerns as drivers of cash use in 2023 when compared to 2021.
  • Most survey respondents found it easy to access places to withdraw and deposit cash, however, people felt that depositing cash was more difficult compared to withdrawing cash.  
  • The top 3 reasons that people reported it was hard to access cash services were:

-There is no ATM or bank branch in my area.

- It takes too much time out of my day.

- The branch opening times don’t suit my needs.

  • The percentage of people storing cash somewhere other than their bank accounts increased significantly to 56.4% from 47.3% in 2021. However, the average value of cash stored decreased. 
  • The main reasons for storing cash were “for emergencies”, “to be able to quickly get money when they need it”, and “to feel better prepared for the unknown”.

More information

Community cash service trials

2023 cash use survey summary report (PDF, 1.17 MB) 

The 2023 cash use survey summary report published on 3 May has been updated on 17 May to improve clarity. No changes have been made to the data contained within this report. 

2023 cash use survey methodology (PDF, 2.76 MB)

2023 cash use survey data tables (xls, 105 KB)

2023 cash use survey questionnaire (PDF, 628 KB)

Media contact

Peter Northcote | Senior Advisor External Stakeholders  
Phone: 04 471 3821