Federal MP Bob Katter sparked controversy when a café in Canberra's Parliament House refused to accept his $50 note as payment. The north Queensland independent criticized the incident as another example of a cashless society that empowers banks and takes away individual freedoms.
However, with only 13% of payments made in cash currently, many merchants have transitioned to card-only transactions. Professor Will Bateman of the Australian National University College of Law clarified that businesses have the right to set their payment terms and may refuse cash.
If a customer disagrees with this policy, they could take the merchant to court and potentially win. However, such legal disputes over cash refusals are highly unlikely.
While a business may refuse banknotes and coins, there are legal limits on the use of coins as payment. The Currency Act 1965 restricts the use of 5c, 10c, 20c, and 50c coins to a maximum of $5 worth.
For $1 and $2 coins, the limit is 10 times the coin's value. Damaged bills are technically not considered legal tender, and businesses are not obligated to accept them. However, banks usually exchange damaged currency.
Many businesses opt for card-only payments due to convenience, security, and faster service. However, some customers oppose this shift, arguing that it limits their freedom to choose payment methods.
The transition to digital banking and the closure of bank branches in rural areas have significantly impacted businesses that rely on cash transactions. Katter mentioned that steps would be taken to reverse the no-cash policy at the parliamentary café.