Physical currency offers a number of benefits: maximum convenience, reliability and awareness of spending for consumers, to name a few. One of the most valuable characteristics of cash is its physicality – the fact that, unlike digital methods of payment, it can be held and touched.
This is an attribute that the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has taken full advantage of with its new $5 note, which comes with a very specific benefit.
A breakthrough for the blind
Australia’s new $5 banknote is the first piece of currency that the 360,000 blind and vision-impaired people living in the country can read. Its design incorporates a small raised bump on each of the long edges of the note, next to a clear window that runs from top to bottom.
This innovation was the result of a campaign started three years ago by Connor McLeod, who was 12 years old at the time. Connor and his mother started a Change.org petition asking the RBA to include tactile markings in its next design for Australia’s banknotes. At first the RBA refused, but the tide started to turn after 57,000 people signed the petition and Connor, who was born blind, met with a politician who worked for the Treasury.
In an article for Australia’s News.com.au, Connor explained just how significant this change will be for him as he gets older and begins to do more things independently.
“When I grow up, I won’t have to rely on trusting that people have always given me the right change,” he wrote. “I can feel the markings on the banknotes and tell them if they’ve given me the wrong change and also think to myself: I did that. Above all, it means I can be independent.”
Combating the counterfeiters
The tactile bumps for blind people aren’t the only innovative feature of Australia’s new $5 note, which follows on from the recent launch of the very first polymer £5 note in the UK. The Australian banknote comes with a number of security additions designed to combat counterfeiting that have not previously appeared on the country’s currency. The new features include the world’s first clear top-to-bottom window and dynamic elements that change as the note is tilted.
RBA governor Glenn Stevens said: “The new banknotes are the culmination of many years of research and trial and extensive consultation with subject-matter experts and the cash-handling industry, as well as qualitative research involving focus groups. The $5 banknote is the first in a new series and other denominations will be upgraded over coming years. Each banknote in the series will incorporate the same security features.”
The RBA’s plans for a wider rollout of the characteristics of its new $5 note make it clear that, despite the growth of payment methods like contactless cards and mobile wallets, cash will have an important part to play in Australia’s financial system for many years to come.
According to the Australian Payments Clearing Association, there were 32,156 ATM terminals in operation throughout the country in June 2016, up from 31,829 a year earlier, so consumers are obviously showing steady demand for physical currency and the unique benefits it provides.