The Guides to Social Policy Law is a collection of publications designed to assist decision makers administering social policy law. The information contained in this publication intended only as a guide to social security payments. The information is accurate as at the date listed at the bottom of the page, but may be subject to change. To discuss individual circumstances please contact Services Australia. Outline of Cashless Debit Card Program


The Cashless Debit Card Program disburses a portion of particular welfare payments to a restricted bank account, accessed by a debit card which does not allow cash withdrawals or the purchase of alcohol or gambling or cash-like products.

The Cashless Debit Card assists participants as a budgeting tool and helps to ensure that welfare payments are not spent on products and activities that contribute to social harm and are instead spent in responsible and meaningful ways.

The Cashless Debit Card Program began on 1 February 2016 and is operating in:

  • the Ceduna Region, South Australia
  • the East Kimberley and the Goldfields regions, Western Australia
  • the Cape York, Bundaberg and Hervey Bay regions, Queensland, and
  • the Northern Territory.

People who have lived in these areas and have been triggered onto the Cashless Debit Card, will continue to have payments made through the Cashless Debit Card even after they leave the community unless they successfully complete program exit processes or move off payments or onto an ineligible payment type.

Legislation currently supports the operation of the program until 31 December 2022.

In the first 4 program areas:

  • the Ceduna Region, South Australia
  • the East Kimberley and the Goldfields regions, Western Australia
  • the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay regions, Queensland

people who are on certain Centrelink payments, called trigger payments (, will have 80% of their welfare payments placed onto a Cashless Debit Card that cannot be used to buy alcohol, for gambling, or to withdraw cash. The remaining 20%, the unrestricted portion, will be paid into the person's nominated bank account to be spent as they wish and can be accessed as cash.

Participants in the Cashless Debit Card Program in the East Kimberley and in the Ceduna Region, can apply to a community body (8.7.7) to have their restricted portion reduced and the unrestricted portion increased.

In the Northern Territory (, existing income management participants are able to choose to transition to the Cashless Debit Card. In Cape York (, existing income management participants will be transitioned to the Cashless Debit Card. Participants in these areas will have their current income management percentage mirrored under the Cashless Debit Card.

People living in program areas can also volunteer for the program if they receive the Age or a trigger payment.

Last reviewed: