ATM use hits 15-year low: Craig James

ATM use hits 15-year low: Craig James
ATM use hits 15-year low: Craig James


Cash is no longer king. Well, certainly the physical version of cash is out of favour with Aussie consumers with more using cards for all variety of transactions.

The number of withdrawals from ATMs has hit a 15-year low while cash-out transactions with debit cards are falling at the fastest annual rate on record. Use of both credit and debit cards is soaring with more people using the cards for small purchases.

Aussie consumers aren’t short of funds on their credit cards. But only a third of credit card limits are being used on average and around 60 per cent of people pay off their credit card debt each month.

Credit cards are also being used more often – in fact smoothed transactions per account each month are at 13-year highs. No doubt the versatility of ‘tap and go’ has caused people to use cards more often for smaller transactions but credit card debt is still falling compared with a year ago at a time when wages are up near 2 percent.

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ATM use hits 15-year low: Craig James

In southern and eastern capital cities the petrol discounting cycle has lengthened. It now takes around a month for pump prices to ease from the cycle highs to the low point in the cycle. So motorists have fewer opportunities to fill up at the lows. Given that the gross retail margin is now averaging around 13 cents a litre, up from 10 cents a litre five years ago, it is even more important for motorists to shop around for the best prices. Adelaide motorists are getting the best deals at present with pump prices near $1.14 a litre.

What do the figures show?

Petrol prices

Due to a holiday in Canberra, the Australian Institute of Petroleum will release the weekly retail price report on Tuesday. The national average petrol price has eased 6.5 cents from recent highs.

The national average wholesale (terminal gate) unleaded petrol price stands at 114.7 cents a litre, down by 1.0 cent a litre over the week.The wholesale price has fallen 4.6 cents a litre from recent highs. The terminal gate diesel price stands at 114.9 cents a litre, down by 0.5 cents a litre over the previous week.

Last week the key Singapore gasoline price fell by US65 cents or 1.0 percent to a 3-month low of US$64.20 a barrel. In Australian dollar terms the Singapore gasoline price fell by 41 cents a barrel or 0.5 percent to a 3-month low of $85.35 a barrel or 53.7 cents a litre.

MotorMouth records the following retail prices for capital cities today: Sydney 121.2c; Melbourne 137.4c; Brisbane 120.1c; Adelaide 114.1c; Perth 122.1c; Canberra 138.3c; Darwin 138.5c; Hobart 141.6c.

Credit & debit card lending:

The average credit card balance recorded a seasonal decline of $84.00 to $3,083.30 in January. Compared with a year ago, the average credit card balance was down by 0.4 percent. In smoothed terms (12 month average) the average balance was down by 1.3 percent.

Of credit cards attracting interest charges, the average outstanding balance rose by $54.80 in January to a 7-month high of $1,968.70. The average balance accruing interest was down by 2.1 per cent on a year ago. In smoothed terms (12 month average) the average balance was down by 0.2 per cent on a year ago.

The average credit card limit recorded a rise of $14.00 to $9,056.30 in January to be down 0.2 per cent over the year. Usage of credit card limits eased from 35 per cent to 34 per cent and therefore just above the lowest usage for over 14 years (33.9 per cent in October 2016).

On average, there were 13.2 transactions made per each credit card account in January, up from 11.3 transactions of a year ago. The average value of purchases was $126.93 with the rolling annual average of purchases falling to a 13-year low of $120.42 in January. Cash-out only transactions by debit cards were 9.1 per cent lower than a year ago – the biggest decline on record.

The number of ATM withdrawals in January was down by 7.7 per cent on a year ago to a 15-year low with the value down by 3.9 per cent. Transactions at own ATMs were down by 10.4 per cent on a year ago.

There were 15.3 debit card purchases per account in January, up from 11.8 transactions a year ago. Average purchase size was $49.97 with the annual average down from $51.37 to a record low of $51.20.

The number of debit cards stood at 44.55 million in January, down 0.3 per cent and the first monthly decline in 29 months. But accounts were up 6.6 per cent on a year ago. Credit card accounts stood at 16.7 million, up 1.6 per cent over the year – the slowest growth in two years.

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ATM use hits 15-year low: Craig James

What is the importance of the economic data?

Weekly figures on petrol prices are compiled by ORIMA Research on behalf of the Australian Institute of Petroleum (AIP). National average retail prices are calculated as the weighted average of each State/Territory's metropolitan and non-metropolitan retail petrol prices, with the weights based on the number of registered petrol vehicles in each of these regions. AIP data for retail petrol prices is based on available market data supplied by MotorMouth.

The Reserve Bank releases data on credit and debit card transactions each month. The credit card figures are useful in highlighting consumer borrowing and spending trends.

What are the implications for interest rates and investors?

The petrol price is going in the right direction for motorists, and in turn, retailers. World crude prices are near 3-month lows and the extra dollars saved at the petrol pump may serve to boost revenues of discretionary retailers.

The challenge for financial institutions is how to efficiently configure bricks-and-mortar branches. Retail customers can do most transactions digitally or remotely. And customers even aren’t coming in to branches to get cash, instead making transactions with cards more often.

CommSec expects no change to interest rates in the foreseeable future.

Craig James is the chief economist at CommSec.

Petrol Price Credit Cards

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