Australia, take a bow. The boom in electronic payments is now so established, we are outpacing almost every other country – which is why banks are struggling with their ATM machines (remember them?)

Consultancy company Capgemini says the number of digital payments in the economy is rising at almost 10 per cent a year, thanks to tap and go and phone payments. 

The number of non-cash payments in Australia grew by 9.9 per cent in 2015, a quickening in the rate of growth after a 8.9 per cent expansion in the previous year.

The rate is a 6.8 per cent rise across other developed countries. The global report ranked Australia fourth on the number of digital payments per person, behind the United States, Korea and Denmark.

The consultancy’s Phil Gomm says he believes the growth in digital payments would rise towards 13 per cent by 2020, leading to a turning point in the amount of cash across the economy.

With more people moving away from cash towards digital wallets, he predicted ‘‘ ongoing consolidation’ ’ in the ATM sector, with the number of machines to fall.

After the big four banks last month removed ATM fees for customers of other institutions, chief executives of two banking giants have flagged the potential for banks to merge their machines as a way of savings costs.

Housing – the good, the bad and the ugly

Sydney homeowners are spending less of their income on mortgages than a decade ago, challenging perceptions about housing affordability and the prevailing levels of mortgage stress.

Families in NSW continue to spend the most on housing; an average of $488 is ploughed into home loans each week, an increase of $8 a week from two years ago, but less than the peak of $520 in 2005.

The Grattan Institute says young people have missed out on a once in a lifetime wealth boom.

And they’re being squeezed at both ends.

While rental payments Australia-wide have stabilised, in NSW the average household renting in the private market now spends $440 a week, up from $433 two years ago and $332 in 2005-06.

But the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the average  home buyer spends 16 per cent of their household income on housing, down from 19 per cent a decade ago. 

It is lowest rate since the ABS records began more than two decades ago. 

But before we pop the Grange, John Daley of the Grattan Institute warned the housing affordability crisis persisted despite the figures. 

“Spending on housing is not going up particularly fast, but only because interest have fallen so far,” he said. “If interest rates go up from here, it will get ugly quite quickly.”

The consumer’s friend leaves big shoes to fill

And finally, a tribute.  Greg Medcraft leaves his post at the Australian Securities & Investments Commission next month – and we, at Really Simple Money, will miss him more than most.

When we started out four years ago, Greg was very welcoming, providing us with advice and introductions to this staff at the excellent SmartMoney site. 

He gave us an interview for our first magazine and was extremely complimentary about our content.

Not everyone encourages the idea that ordinary Australian families should understand the basics about their money.

But Greg certainly does.  So alongside “keeping the corporate bastards honest”, we see his attempts to spread the financial literacy message as among his best work.

We hope his successor is as welcoming to those, like us, who want to see a better educated and more secure Australian family.

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