Cash is King


I have a friend who has a dollar note, sitting in a frame on his wall.

When asked. “

Why do you keep this note?”

His answer is, “It was part of my first ever pay packet.”


My experience with money has been different. For a start the first money I saw as coming from my job, as opposed to payment I received in exchange for my time helping out as I grew up, was given to me – or so it seemed. My first payment wasn’t even cash. It was a paper cheque with my name on it. As payment it was practically useless because I couldn’t buy anything with it until I had paid it into a bank account.

I was handed my cheque on a Thursday morning. The nearest bank was about 2 kilometres from the college I attended. The bank would be closed by the time I finished lectures if I did not rush off to the bank at lunchtime. So, at lunch time I scarpered off to the bank. And so did my class mates. (All accept John who always had a £10 note (our largest note at that time). John got so used to flashing his £10 note – only to be told – “It’s too big for me to cash luv. Have you got anything smaller?” He made money out of having too much. When going to a dance – it might have cost 2/3d to gain entry – he would say, “ I have only got £10 can you pay for me?”)

I chose the Commonwealth bank in Moorabool St Geelong as my bank because it was the nearest bank I knew of in this new city. (To start an account today you have to provide a list of items that certify you are who you are.) I had none of those hassles. I had the cheque. I knew my name – possibly I had my driver’s licence. Within a few minutes all my money was in the bank. But I needed some of that money to buy the things I needed for the next 14 days. How much?

I had no idea. (My accommodation and my food was paid. It formed part of the allowance I was paid, but it was never shown as a separate amount. My cheque was for approximately £11. 4. 6p ((I am only certain of the £s I was paid a fortnight after expenses.))

How much. I didn’t need much. I didn’t drink. I had no transport costs to pay. I didn’t have to pay for utilities. Perhaps I could go to the cinema, treat myself to a coffee, buy other treats.

“ I will need £2.”

So I withdrew £2 in cash. (Within a year or so the banks insisted the cheque clear – at least 3 working days – before I got access to the money the government paid me to learn.)

I left the bank with a bank passport in my name. It showed how much I deposited and another entry showed how much I had withdrawn. The final column showed how much money I had in the bank. Any money I had, apart from the cash in hand was always in the bank. Once I had spent my £2 if I wanted more I could only get more going back to the bank between 9 am and 3pm on a Monday to Friday (excluding holidays). What a pain that became.

I have always hated carrying cash around. Yet if anything was needed the only way to buy it was to have cash at hand. If I wanted to go home (I didn’t) I needed cash to buy a train ticket. I attended church. To give to the service of the church I needed cash. Fortunately I was well, but if I needed a visit to the doctor, or dentist I had to have cash with me. The money in the bank didn’t count because unless you planned beforehand how much you might need you couldn’t get access to it after banking hours.

So I soon discovered the benefit of having a personal cheque account of my own. This meant people would trust your signature scratched on a piece of paper was worth what you said it was.

Cash was needed to go to a dance, or pay for a meal, but visits to the doctor, or dentist – when you were unsure how much they charged could be paid by cheque. Providing you had sufficient credit in your bank account. Sometimes you would read about a person who had deceived another by passing a worthless cheque to them. You would read stories like that in the newspaper yet it possibly happened only once to me – if it happened at all.

The truth is no one but a crook would pass a worthless cheque because no one used credit to buy things. They used their own money, or they borrowed money from their bank – knowing they would have to pay it back £ by £ each month as the agreement stated. Or they did as most people did and they went without until they could buy what they wanted for cash.

In 1966 Australia adopted a whole new currency. In time we got used to handling our new cash. In 1969 the banks introduced instant credit. Anyone could go to their bank and the bank would give them a Bankcard with up to $500 of credit. We didn’t because we were accustomed to paying by cash,or cheque, for the things we wanted.

The banks were on to a good thing. They continued to profit from Bankcard until Visa Card and MasterCard took over their business. Interest rates on credit cards rise, even in these days of near zero interest charges. Pay day lending, and other forms of instant credit, are available almost everywhere. People are addicted to credit.


The Covid 19 crises has now almost killed cash. Many stores now require people to use plastic cards to pay for their purchases. People with cash complain their money is legal tender and must be accepted as fair exchange, but in fact the stores have the upper hand. It turns out – so long as they display their terms of trade – they need only accept electronic forms of payment. The purchaser cannot insist they accept cash. Go figure.


That chap with the first $1 he saved now finds we have moved from paper$1 . As if nothing will ever change. It does. Cash is no longer king.

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