History of Payments


The payment methods we enjoy today have not always been around. Throughout Australia's pre-European settlement and early colonial period, economic transactions were almost exclusively by barter. In the early nineteenth century, many methods for making payment emerged: promissory notes, foreign coins and British treasury bills and, of course, rum!

The reforms of Governor Lachlan Macquarie, such as the introduction of the "holey" dollar (where foreign coins were purchased and restamped) in 1814 and the establishment of the Bank of New South Wales in 1817, which began issuing its own bank notes, established some of the earliest foundations for Australia's modern payments system.

By the 1830s "bank notes and English coins were in common use and cheque payments an everyday experience" throughout the colonies, according to historian S J Butlin. Clearing house arrangements for bank notes and cheques also appeared in colonial capitals such as Hobart and Sydney around this same time.

Despite these important developments, it would be the twentieth century, with the new Commonwealth government and a tidal wave of technological and commercial changes that would revolutionise the way we pay.

  • Commonwealth Government has constitutional responsibility for currency.

  • First series of Australian bank notes issued by Commonwealth Treasury.

  • Commonwealth Bank of Australia assumes control over the issue of Australian bank notes.

  • Commonwealth Bank Act formally establishes the Commonwealth Bank as sole issuer of bank notes in Australia.

  • Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) founded. Assumes central bank functions, including as issuer of bank notes, from Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
    ”In come the dollars and in come the cents.” Decimal currency introduced on 14 February 1966.

  • Bankcard, the first financial institution issued credit card in Australia, launched.

  • First ATMs appear in Australia.

  • International credit cards become more prominent in Australia.

  • Campbell Review and the beginning of banking industry deregulation.
    EFTPOS, the electronic point of sale domestic debit card system, begins operation.

  • Cheques Act commences.

  • Polymer notes, an Australian invention, introduced into circulation.

  • Telephone and, later, internet banking introduced.

  • APCA established!
    1 and 2 cent pieces no longer minted (but remain legal tender).

  • Wallis Enquiry into the Financial System recommends a new regulatory structure for Australian payments.

  • BPAY launched as a convenient way for paying bills by telephone and, later, internet banking.

  • Wallis Inquiry reforms commence with the establishment of the Payments System Board under the RBA.
    The Australian Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system commences for high value transactions

  • Debit cards provided by the international card schemes become increasingly popular with Australian consumers.

  • RBA’s regulation of interchange fee begins.

  • PayPal begins operation in Australia.

  • ATM Direct Charging regime commences.
    EFTPOS Payments Australia Limited established as company to administer the EFTPOS system.

  • Chip cards, contactless payments, mobile banking, new online currencies are increasingly a part of people’s daily lives!

  • APCA celebrates 20 years of improving Australian payments
    and hosts a Payments Symposium.

  • Payments System Board endorses industry proposal for new real-time payments infrastructure in Australia.

  • Australian Payments Council established.