Shopping with plasticBy 2008, approximately 13 million credit cards  and 28 million debit cards were on issue in Australia. Visa said the Debit Card was the fastest growing consumer product ever released by their company.  By 2005, Debit Cards were used an average of 166 times per user annually and in 2006 “tap and go” technology arrived. Shopping with plastic had become a way of life.

New technology introduced in Australia in 2006 had made shopping with plastic even easier. The Commonwealth Bank was the first to introduce contactless or “tap and go” payments using Visa payWave and MasterCard PayPass technology.  The payment cards come with an embedded chip and a radio antenna that transmit information to and from the checkout terminals. This allows users to make transactions without having to enter a PIN, simply by tapping their cards on a reader. For purchases over $100 a PIN is still required.

The new technology has been enthusiastically adopted by Australians and has been responsible for a huge increase in the use of credit and debit cards, even for small transactions.  Between 2007 and 2016 the number of debit and credit card transactions doubled.  A survey by the Reserve Bank of Australia found that, while in 2007 Australians only used their cards to make 10 per cent of purchases under $20, by 2016 the figure had increased to 40 per cent. By then, 85 per cent of Australians had a card equipped to make contactless payments.

In 2018 Westpac claimed that Australia was leading the world in contactless payments. The most popular use of “tap and go”, they said, was at fast food restaurants where 98 per cent of payments were contactless. At food and grocery stores, it was around 93 per cent.

Shopping with plastic for even low value items has dramatically reduced the use of cash. As a result, ATM usage has declined. Now many people are moving beyond cards to use “tap and go” technology built into smartphones or wearable devices like watches and wristbands.