Which banks are offering financial relief to customers affected by the latest lockdowns?

Which banks are offering financial relief to customers affected by the latest lockdowns?

With several areas around Australia locking down to help halt the spread of COVID-19, several of Australia’s leading banks have introduced measures to provide support and financial relief to customers who are doing it tough.

Banks and other lenders first began offering financial support such as mortgage freezes in March 2020. While many of these programs were initially offered on a temporary basis, with cities such as Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Darwin, Alice Springs going into lockdown, some banks are offering financial support and relief to affected customers, starting with the Big Four:

  • ANZ has announced an extended support package for small business and home loan customers affected by the NSW lockdown, including options for short-term payment relief, waiving fees, restructuring home loan debt or switching to a fixed rate loan.
  • Commonwealth Bank is offering short-term repayment deferrals, plus options to access money from home loan offset and redraw accounts, reductions to minimum repayments, and restructuring home loan debts, including switching to fixed rate loans. CBA has also introduced a freeze on forced sales until September 2021 for eligible customers.
  • NAB offers support to business and individual customers, including temporary payment reductions or breaks, restructuring home loans or consolidating debt, plus referral to wellbeing and financial counselling.
  • Westpac’s support offers include options to waive fees and restructure debts, including deferring or reducing home loan repayments, and reducing home loan interest rates and extending home loan terms. Eligible credit card customers could also see reductions to their credit card repayments and interest rates for a limited time. Referrals to financial counsellors or other support services are also available.

Some other banks and financial institutions that have announced new COVID-19 relief programs include:

  • AMP Bank, which is offering to defer home loan repayments, make partial payment arrangements or home loan restructures, or waive fees for affected clients, as well as offering access to free financial counsellors. 
  • Bendigo & Adelaide Bank, which is offering relief on home loans, residential investment loans, lines of credit, personal loans, business loans, personal credit cards, equipment finance loans or personal overdrafts. Additionally, options are available to restructure or consolidate loans, waive or defer fees, and to enjoy no interest rate reduction for early withdrawals on term deposits.
  • BOQ is offering eligible customers affected by lockdowns the ability to temporarily defer payments on mortgages and other loans, or to switch to interest only repayments for a limited time. Fees and charges for non-payment of loans or early access to Term Deposit funds may also be waived, and special arrangements are available in relation to arrears. 
  • Suncorp, which is offering assistance tailored to each individual customer’s circumstances, with options such as deferring scheduled loan repayments, moving to interest-only repayments, and waiving fees for early withdrawal form term deposits.

Australian Banking Association (ABA) CEO, Anna Bligh, said that “The message from banks is clear: don’t tough it out on your own. Call your bank. They will do whatever they can to help.” According to the ABA, while online and phone banking is available, many bank branches are remaining open as essential services during the lockdowns.

Before agreeing to any changes to your banking or other financial products, it’s important to consider the short and long term impacts your decision may have on your financial circumstances. For example a mortgage freeze could be a necessary option if you have no other way to cover the cost of home loan repayments during lockdown, however the capitalised interest could lead to you paying more interest on you property over the longer term. Consider talking to your bank and/or a financial adviser or mortgage broker before making any commitments.

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This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Georgia Brown before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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Learn more about bank accounts

Can you open another account at the same bank?

Yes, you can open another account at the same bank if you already have an account there, but some banks place a limit on how many specific accounts you can open.

Generally, though, it is possible to have more than one everyday account, one personal account and one joint account, or have different types of accounts – such as a transaction account and a savings account.

Keep in mind that some bank accounts come with fees, so you could be charged twice for having two types of the same account at the same bank.

Also, if you have more than one high-interest transaction account at the same bank, only one account will be able to earn the highest rate of interest.

Can you find your bank account number online?

If your bank offers online services, you should be able to find your bank account number online by logging into your account on your bank’s website and checking your details there.

Keep in mind that each type of account you have with a bank comes with a unique account number. This means if you have a bank account as well as a savings account, for example, your bank account number and your savings account number will be different.

If you don’t have access to your bank account online or can’t login, you should be able to find your account number on a mailed bank statement, if you have one.

Alternatively, you can call your bank’s customer service number or visit a branch to retrieve your account number.

How can I find bank accounts in my name?

To find ‘live’ bank accounts in your name, you’ll have to ask individual lenders, which involves contacting them one by one and proving your identity each time. To find ‘unclaimed’ bank accounts (those that have been inactive for at least seven years), you can use this website.

How do I close a bank account?

Closing a bank account is one of those tasks that’s easy to put in the too-hard basket. There are quite a few steps involved, some which may require you to hang on the phone for a while.  

Here’s a handy checklist of items to tick off, so the job gets done quicker. If you don’t do your banking online, the following steps can also be done at a branch.   

  • Cancel any scheduled or recurring payments
  • Update your direct debit details (such as loan repayments) with creditors
  • Export your payee address book (to keep a record of saved third-party bank account details)
  • Transfer the balance of your account (to the new bank account)
  • Close your account online, or by calling the bank or visiting a branch

How do I open a bank account for a baby?

If you’ve just welcome a new baby into the world, congratulations. Opening a bank account for your child can be a wonderful first gift.

Before you can open your child an account, you’ll need to have a birth certificate or passport for your baby.

As the parent or guardian, you’ll also be listed as a joint holder on the account. This means you’ll need to have proof of your identification and address (a driver’s licence, passport, birth certificate or Medicare Card).

Many banks and credit unions offer baby banks accounts. Usually, you can apply online; otherwise you can head into a local branch or office with your documents.

Are bank accounts frozen when someone dies?

Yes, Australian bank accounts are frozen when someone dies. If you want to close the account of somebody who has died, you might have to provide proof of death and a copy of the will. You might also have to prove your relationship to the deceased person.

If you have a joint bank account with somebody who has died, you will generally be entitled to all the money in the account. Again, you might have to provide proof of death if you want to change the bank account from a joint account to a one-person account.

Can you deposit money into somebody else's bank account?

One of the easiest banking tasks in the world is depositing money. You can even deposit money into someone else’s bank account if you wish.

The basic information you need to deposit money into a third-party bank account is:

  • Payee’s name
  • Bank, building society or credit union (though this isn’t necessary)
  • BSB (or bank code, which is the branch identifier)
  • Account number

Including the name of the financial institution isn’t necessary – particularly with online banking – because the BSB will identify this for you.

A handy tip is to record yourself (or add a personal message) in the transaction description or reference. This will show up on the recipients account, letting them know who’s paid them the money.

Can I link a bank account to Paypal?

Paypal is a safe and convenient way to pay online without the need to share your financial details. You can send and receive money or accept credit and debit cards as a seller using Paypal.

It’s easy to link your bank account to a Paypal account and start making transactions within minutes.

To start, you first need a Paypal account (it’s free to join). When setting up your Paypal account, you will be prompted to link a credit card or bank account (or both if you wish).

PayPal works without a balance; you can use Paypal to shop or send money when your balance is zero.

When your Paypal balance is zero, Paypal will ask you to choose your preferred payment method at the checkout.

This could be either your linked bank account or credit card. Your bank details can be updated if you change banks or credit cards.

How do I open a new bank account?

There are a number of ways to open a new bank account – online, over the phone or in the branch. The trick is to decide what type of bank account you want beforehand.

It might sound like a simple enough task, but there are literally hundreds of bank accounts to choose from. And each offer their own banking features and benefits.

A comparison site like RateCity can help you work out what bank account product matches your needs.

Once you’ve made up your mind what you want, it’s advisable to have the following information ready for the application process.

  • A couple of forms of identification (such as driver’s licence, Medicare card, passport)
  • Tax file number
  • Residential address, contact phone number and email (though email is not essential)

Can debt collectors take money out of your bank account?

Many people find themselves struggling to cope with debt at one time or another. In these cases, a debt collector could contact you to demand payment for a debt, to explain the consequences of you failing to pay a debt, or to organise alternative payment arrangements.

If you’re contacted by a debt collector, you may be wondering what their rights are and whether they can take money out of your bank account.

Creditors cannot access money in your bank account unless a court order (also known as a ‘garnishee order’) is made to allow creditors to recover debt by taking money from your bank account or salary.

If this happens, the creditor can take money out of your bank account unless you pay the debt in full or make an alternative payment arrangement such as paying in instalments through the court.

Do you need a bank account to get a credit card?

To get a credit card, you need to show proof of income, which will almost certainly require you to have a bank account.

Do you need a bank account to sell on eBay?

You don’t need a bank account to sell on eBay. But if you don’t have a bank account, you must provide either a credit card or debit card.

How do you open a bank account in Australia?

Opening a bank account in Australia is usually a straightforward process. Some banks give you the option of opening an account online, while others require you to visit a branch.

Different bank accounts offer different features, so it’s best to compare your options to find one that suits you.

All banks require you to pass an identity check to open a bank account. Australia uses the 100-point identification system, which means you’ll need to show a number of forms of ID that, together, add up to 100 points.

Common ID types include a driver’s licence, passport, Australian visa in a foreign passport, and Australian Medicare card. You’ll find out what types of ID are accepted when you go through the sign-up process online or at a branch.

Once your account is open, you’ll be given or sent a debit card that you can use to make purchases and withdraw money from your account.

What do you need to open bank accounts?

Opening a bank account is one of the simplest online tasks you could perform. The hard part is deciding which type of bank account you want to open.

All banking institutions have a website where you hit ‘apply’ on the account of your choice and step through an application in less than 10 minutes.

Here’s a list of information that is generally required for applications.

  • Identification (driver’s licence, passport, proof of age card, proof of citizenship and/or birth certificate)
  • Tax file number (so you don’t get charged the highest tax rate)
  • Address, contact email and phone number

If you decide to open a new account at the branch, make sure you ask beforehand what information you need to take with you, or take all of the above to be safe.