COVID-19 cash information
This page addresses a range of questions we have received from people about cash and banking services during COVID-19 restrictions.
The cash system is working well
The system that distributes cash to the public through the commercial banks and their ATM and branch networks is working well.
We are in regular contact with the main 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 help and service changes, including branch opening hours (when permitted).
Businesses don't have to accept cash
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.
Banks changing their 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 a bank. 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 with service
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.
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 their website.
Limits on size of cash transactions
Banks may also 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.
Limits to business customer services
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.
When your nearest ATM is closed
If your nearest or usual ATM is closed, go to another ATM or use another bank’s ATM. You won’t be charged a fee. ATMs are an essential service, so you may travel—including by public transport—to an ATM close to home.
It is not unusual for ATMs to close down occasionally for any number of reasons. Some street-facing ATMs 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 their websites.
Emergency cash supply
There is no need to 'stash your cash'. The overall banking system remains safe and sound and withdrawing large amounts of cash risks loss or robbery. Essential service businesses generally prefer you to pay with contactless or card payments if you can rather than using cash.
It is generally a good idea to have some cash on hand in case you can't 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.
Using cash is still safe
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.
It is still safe to use cash when it is used responsibly. This means wearing a mask when shopping, and washing or sanitising your hands afterwards. Cash can and should continue to be accepted for essential purchases, but retailers are not legally required to accept cash. Some people, who are generally more vulnerable, cannot pay without using cash.
COVID-19 government website
Alert Level 4 exemption for other financial businesses and services (Gazette notice)