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Reserve Bank

Cash and payments data update: COVID-19 special

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the decline in transactional cash use, compounded by accelerating reductions in banks’ branch and cash services, and despite New Zealanders’ rush to cash in March 2020:

  • About 70 percent of the population indicated in 2020 that cash is one way they use to pay for everyday things, compared to 96 percent in 2019 and 2017.
  • The value of cash withdrawals has reduced from February 2020 by about 20 percent - likely due to less demand from New Zealanders and an absence of international visitors.
  • Digital banking and contactless payments are increasingly popular. Contactless is now the preferred way of paying for most New Zealanders (36 percent) and over 70 percent of people are making payments from their bank accounts.
  • The closure of branches of the five major banks accelerated between September 2019 and March 2021 with about 211 branches closed over that time. That was just under a quarter (24 percent) of the 863 branches that were operating in September 2019. Additionally, the portion of branches that are operating on reduced days and hours has increased and now appears to be about half of all branches operated by the major five banks. Rural areas have been more affected by changes to the branch network than urban centres.
  • Since 2019 there has been a notable increase in the number of self-service checkouts in New Zealand. The majority (about 70 percent) of these checkouts now only accept card payments compared to 2019 when about 80 percent accepted both cash and cards.
  • Most New Zealanders are able to pay using their preferred method most of the time, and this is slightly higher for cash users compared to those who pay using other methods.
  • While transactional cash use has been declining in general, there was a sharp increase in demand for cash in New Zealand as the COVID-19 pandemic started to seriously impact the country. In the weeks leading up to the nationwide lock down in March 2020 about $800 million was issued from the Reserve Bank, compared to $150 million in March 2019. Most of the cash withdrawn in March 2020 has not been returned to the Reserve Bank.

Download report: Cash and payments data update: COVID-19 special (PDF 1.8MB)


Comparison report: Cash use surveys 2017, 2019, 2020

Cash use survey 2020

The decline in cash users is reflected across a number of indicators, including the proportion of people who don’t hold cash in their wallet, and the number of people who are using cash less than they were 12 months ago. Increasing numbers of New Zealanders are using electronic payment options. In 2020 the trajectory of change in responses to some questions has increased dramatically:

  • Eighty-three percent of people who increased their use of debit/EFTPOS card by contactless means, said they were ‘likely/very likely’ to continue using that method ‘after the COVID-19 pandemic’
  • Half of New Zealanders said they were using less cash than they were 12 months ago - 70 percent of this group said it was ‘likely/very likely’ they would still not use cash when the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
  • Three-quarters of those who reported using less cash in 2020 said COVID-19 was a contributing factor
  • The proportion of New Zealanders who preferred to pay using cash dropped by a quarter from 12 percent in 2019 to 9 percent in 2020
  • Two-thirds of the 9 percent of New Zealanders who prefer to use cash are able to use it at the places they shop ‘always’ or ‘most of the time’
  • For 73 percent of New Zealanders, it was either ‘very easy’ or ‘somewhat easy’ to get cash out when they need it; but only 23 percent of New Zealanders find it easy to deposit cash
  • Sixty-four percent of New Zealanders reported having cash in their wallet – down from around 80 percent in 2019 and 2017
  • Māori were more likely than non- Māori to report being unable to cope if they were unable to get or use cash in future.

Download report: Comparison report: Cash use surveys 2017, 2019, 2020 (PDF 1.8MB)

Download report: Cash use survey 2020 (PDF 1.6MB)

Earlier survey reports: 2019, 2017


Future of Cash – Te Moni Anamata – An internal programme research report – December 2019

The research and analysis presented in this report was undertaken during 2019 as part of the Future of Cash – Te Moni Anamata Programme which is is designed to anticipate and plan for New Zealand’s cash requirements for the next 15 – 20 years. Formal policy work, such as the proposals and public consultations, has been informed by the research reported here. It offers conclusions and hypotheses for information or further exploration as the programme proceeds. Views expressed in this report are the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Reserve Bank.

Although published in late 2020, due to COVID-19 reprioritisation of resources, this report’s content pre-dates the pandemic which has caused abrupt changes in payments behaviours including cash demand, use, acceptance, and related services (such banking and Cash-in-Transit industry offerings); as well as contractions of markets (such as tourism and hospitality). The extent to which New Zealand’s COVID-19 experience hastens or entrenches a number of the longer term changes for cash users and other system participants – as well as non-cash payments systems - will become apparent over coming months and a research programme is being established to capture this.

Download report: Future of Cash – Te Moni Anamata – An internal programme research report – December 2019 (PDF 3MB)


The future of cash in New Zealand - An internal project research report - June 2018

The research and analysis presented in this document was undertaken as part of the first stage of the Future of Cash – Te Moni Anamata programme. It presents the programme’s initial assessment (as at June 2018) of the current state of the Cash System which includes the cash distribution system, the publics’ use of cash in New Zealand, trends in cash use, the impact of payment and currency technology advances and the long-term resilience and efficiency of the cash distribution system. It offers conclusions and hypotheses for information or further exploration as the programme proceeds. The report is based on analysis of information that was either:

  • publicly available
  • provided voluntarily to the Reserve Bank for this project (information provided subject to Non-Disclosure Agreements has not been included)
  • generated as part of the ‘Cash Use in New Zealand’ public survey, or
  • stored or generated by the Reserve Bank’s currency operations.

These sources are not routinely cited in this report, as it was written for the Reserve Bank, and not for publication. The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Reserve Bank.

Download report: The future of cash in New Zealand - An internal project research report - June 2018 (PDF 2.72MB)