In the wake of COVID-19, many retailers are encouraging consumers to use contactless payments. 

Card, phone or digital wallet payment methods are being preferred by retailers to help reduce the risk of germ transmission. 

However, one expert believes that COVID-19 will bring about the end for cash for many people in Australia. 

Credit card comparison website founder, Roland Bleyer said that he believes many retailers may decide to refuse to accept cash altogether once the pandemic is over. 

"Over the past month or so, there has been a definite shift in the way we pay for things, with merchants moving away from cash – and the germs it may carry – declaring their preference for card payments instead.

"While Australia is not new to the idea of choosing cards over cash, as coronavirus continues to assert its influence over what we can and can’t do, Aussies are being encouraged to use contactless more than ever as a way to slow the spread.

"Shops, cafes and other retail outlets that remain open seem to be thinking along the same lines, moving to cashless payment methods to protect both their employees and their customers.

"And while the WHO may not be offering official advice on the subject, the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association is. According to the association’s National Secretary, Gerard Dwyer, "cash is a carrier." 

"I think we will see more and more businesses refusing to accept cash," he said. 

Bleyer said that there were many reasons outside of lower risk of germ transmission that make card payments attractive to businesses. 

"Cash carries germs and it will take a while for the fear of COVID-19 to diminish even once things open back up again.

"New habits and behaviour will form prompting people to only use cards as the new norm moving forward.

"Businesses prefer cashless payment as it means less petty theft at the cash register and they're easier and faster for both businesses and customers.

"Additionally, the ATO prefers traceable business records," he said. 

Bleyer added that many may not be aware that merchants are legally able to refuse and limit cash payments. 

"It's worth noting that the idea of merchants not accepting cash is actually legal.

"It seems there is a widespread belief that because official Australian coins and banknotes are legal tender, merchants must accept them as payment.

"However, the law sees it somewhat differently. According to the Currency Act, merchants have certain rights when it comes to accepting payments.

"A merchant may limit the dollar amount in coins a customer may use to make a purchase, for example, to $5 worth of silver coins, or $20 worth of gold coins.

"As for not accepting cash at all, again the law is on the merchant’s side.

"According to the Reserve Bank of Australia, merchants are 'at liberty to set the commercial terms upon which payment will take place' before the purchase, and refusal to accept payment in legal tender banknotes and coins is not unlawful.

"So as long as the merchant has a sign at the counter that lays out these terms, which is visible to customers before the point of purchase, it is within its rights not to accept cash," he said. 

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