A pedestrian walks past the Macquarie Bank sign in Sydney
Macquarie Bank is one of Australia's major banks, but it's not the biggest in the country. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS

Macquarie Bank cash phase-out not related to a ‘digital dollar’

David Williams June 3, 2024

Australia’s biggest bank has told customers to adopt central bank digital currency (CBDC) or “lose everything.”


False. Macquarie Bank (which is not the country’s biggest) has made no such statement. Australia does not have a CBDC.

AAP FACTCHECK – A bank’s move to phase out cash and cheque transactions has sparked social media claims that customers of “Australia’s biggest bank” will “lose everything” if they refuse to accept a central bank digital currency (CBDC).

The claims are false. Macquarie Bank – which is not Australia’s biggest bank – is phasing out its cash and cheque services this year, but the move is unrelated to a CBDC, which doesn’t exist in Australia.

The claim is made in a Facebook post captioned: “Macquarie Bank, one of Australia’s biggest banks, told customers last week cash would be eliminated completely this year and they would have nothing if customers refused to use CBDCs.”

Crossed out Facebook post about Macquarie Bank going cashless and CBDC
 Some of the Facebook post link to a story on a US-based misinformation site. 

Another post claims Australia is forcing the public to switch to a CBDC system and has warned customers that if they “refuse to use CBDC’s [sic] they will own nothing”.

Both posts link to an article on The People’s Voice, a US website known for publishing misinformation.

The article is headlined: “Australia’s Biggest Bank Bans Cash, Forces Customers To Adopt CBCDs (sic) ‘Or Lose Everything’.”

The body of the article quotes Macquarie Bank’s own published information about the move: “We’re phasing out our cash and cheque services for all products. To prepare for this change, you’ll need to start transacting digitally.”

Macquarie’s changes were announced in September 2023. 

Some media reported that the move means customers will no longer be able to process cheques and cash deposits or withdrawals from within branches, while others reported it as “going cashless”.

The bank says “going cashless” is inaccurate, as Macquarie customers can still withdraw cash from ATMs.

“As a digital bank, Macquarie doesn’t operate a traditional branch network and this update relates to over-the-counter cash and cheque services at three Macquarie locations,” the bank’s statement says.

Finance academics tell AAP FactCheck that Macquarie’s move is unrelated to CBDC, contrary to the posts. 

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) describes a CBDC as a “new digital form of money issued by the Reserve Bank“.

Reserve Bank Governor Michele Bullock at a press conference
 A CBDC is only at the research phase for the Reserve Bank (governed by Michelle Bullock).  

Although the bank is actively researching it as a “complement to existing forms of money”, it doesn’t yet exist in Australia.

Associate Professor of Finance at RMIT University in Melbourne Dr Angel Zhong says Macquarie’s move is different from a CBDC.

She explains that the RBA currently issues two forms of money in Australia: physical currency (banknotes and coins) and digital currency (balances within accounts maintained by commercial banks and select financial entities at the RBA).

Macquarie’s move only means it is no longer dealing in the first type, Dr Zhong says, adding: “CBDC is different from digital currency.” 

Dr Chris Vasantkumar, an expert in the “anthropology of money” at Macquarie University, says there isn’t a CBDC in Australia yet, so “Macquarie Bank’s customers can’t be forced to use one”.

He also says Macquarie’s move won’t take money from its customers: “What is being lost is not people’s money but particular ways of accessing.”

Dr Zhong says the claim that Macquarie Bank customers will lose everything if they don’t accept CBDC is false. 

“Macquarie has listed all options in its statement,” she says. 

“There is no mention of CBDC at all.”

UNSW Sydney Scientia Professor Ross Buckley says the claim that Macquarie is Australia’s biggest bank is also false, as Commonwealth Bank of Australia is the nation’s largest.

The Verdict

The claim that Australia’s biggest bank has told customers to adopt central bank digital currency (CBDC) or “lose everything” is false. 

Macquarie is not Australia’s biggest bank, and its move to phase out cash transactions and the use of cheques is not related to a CBDC, which is some years away. 

Customers will not lose any money in the move.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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