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Record issuance of debit cards to help isolated or vulnerable customers

29 April 2020

Australian banks will issue a record number of debit cards (Mastercard or VISA debit) to customers who don’t have them and who may be self-isolating to make sure they can continue to pay for their goods and services online or over the phone throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.


Currently there are over half a million Australian bank customers who actively use a passbook account or transaction account with no linked debit card, with many of these being customers over 70 years of age. This means they pay for goods and services using cash or EFTPOS but are unable to shop online or over the phone.

Government advice is that Australians who are over 70 should stay at home whenever possible during the pandemic. In addition to this, many retailers are not accepting cash at this time due to concerns over it being a potential vehicle for the spreading of the virus.

Over the next few weeks banks will be sending out cards or contacting customers directly. Those people receiving cards are under no obligation to activate them or use them. Banks are offering them to ensure that these customers have the option to use a card if they are isolating or in quarantine.”

“as a result of the Government’s social distancing advice, particularly for older Australians, we must provide additional options for people to do their banking and pay for goods and services.”

ABA CEO Anna Bligh

Australian Banking Association CEO Anna Bligh said this was an important step in ensuring no one was left behind when it comes to banking services, regardless of the level of lockdown a community is experiencing because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Paying for goods and services is critical for every single person in our community and will continue regardless of the level of lockdown in our community,” Ms Bligh said.

“The industry has recognised that as a result of the Government’s social distancing advice, particularly for older Australians, we must provide additional options for people to do their banking and pay for goods and services.

“It might surprise some in the community that there are many thousands of customers who are using a passbook or savings and cheque accounts that have no debit card.

“We understand that some people who haven’t used a debit card in the past might have concerns over safety and security, however they should rest assured that it’s safe, its secure and you can track your spending.

“The industry thanks the regulators, in particular ASIC, who have provided the approvals needed on this record-breaking project quickly and efficiently,” she said.

Council on the Ageing (COTA) Chief Executive Ian Yates said “A significant number of older Australians still operate passbook accounts with which they withdraw cash at a bank branch, and do not have any card linked to that account.

“During the Covid-19 period these people have found purchasing goods and services difficult when some retailers have stopped accepting cash.

“Agreeing to activate a debit card sent to you by your bank, or responding to an invitation from your bank to issue a card, will ensure you maintain control of your affairs whilst giving you more options to spend your money during COVID-19.

“COTA Australia welcomes the proactive approach to this issue by the Australian Banking Association, and thanks all banks involved for stepping up to take care of their more vulnerable customers in this time of need. We welcome ASIC’s flexibility in permitting these offers to happen,” he said.

These cards will incur no additional cost to any customer. Bank staff will be on hand to provide practice advice to those unfamiliar with how these cards work.

ENDS
Contact: Rory Grant 0475 741 007

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Information now available for new debit card holders.

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