The social and economic impacts of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are becoming more apparent as the situation evolves daily, if not hourly. To support customers through this time of uncertainty, Australian banks are stepping up with more clearly defined financial relief strategies.
In an official Australian Banking Association (ABA) statement, CEO Anna Bligh said “Banks stand ready to support customers and if anyone is in need of assistance, they shouldn’t wait but come forward as soon as possible.”
ABA members and other players are communicating these financial assistance packages independently, with many announcing changed circumstances for personal and business financial products. They include waiving fees on early term deposit withdrawals, interest rate freezes on loans, options to defer or restructure home loan repayments, and emergency credit card limit increases.
All four of the big banks have committed to some measures - with the most generous helping hands reaching out to business account holders - while smaller lenders are also offering relief for business and consumer customers.
If your ability to work or your business operations have been affected by the virus outbreak, here’s a snapshot of how some major banks could help ease the financial burden. We’ve also found the best way to contact your bank and get the ball rolling for those doing it tough.
The Big 4 Banks
ANZ’s assistance options currently focus on their business customers, but they’re also ensuring retail customers can access all their accounts digitally to support social distancing. Business banking customers can expect:
Suspended interest repayments
- Early access to term deposits without break fees
- Access to additional credit (subject to approval)
- A 0.25% p.a. decrease in variable interest business loan rates across a range of products
Get in touch: All customers can get onto ANZ at 13 13 14, and business customers are advised to talk to their relationship manager.
CommBank have extensive options set up for their business customers, and are assisting other customers on a case-by-case basis for home loan, credit card and personal loan repayments. The bank will also be adding additional resources and extended hours. Other business support includes:
- Deferring repayments and fee waivers for various products (including repayments on business loans and overdrafts for 90 days)
- Waiving merchant terminal fees for 90 days
- Deferring repayments on vehicle and equipment finance loans, and tailoring restructuring options
- Waiving early redraw fees on business term deposit accounts (including Farm Management Deposit accounts)
- Waiving establishment fees and excess interest on temporary excess products
Get in touch: Call the Business Financial Assistance Team on 13 26 07 or the Financial Assistance Team on 13 30 95 for other account holders.
NAB also has a primary business customer focus, early on announcing measures to support these customers as tourism and regular spending screeches to a halt and cash-flow hits a wall. These include:
- Deferral of business loan repayments and extension of business loan terms (both up to 3 months), based on individual circumstances
- Support to restructure existing business loans, including equipment finance
- Business credit card deferred repayments.
Get in touch: They suggest all customers experiencing hardship reach out to their banking manager, or give the general enquiry line a call on 13 22 65.
Business customers at Westpac will have a range of support measures to consider in the wake of Coronavirus, while the bank suggests any other customers negatively affected should go through the standard financial hardship support process. Businesses banking with Westpac can consider:
- Fee-free redraws on loans
- Business loan deferred repayments by up to 3 months
- Options to extend business loan terms by up to 3 months
- Restructuring and consolidating loans
- Access to term deposit funds without reduction in interest rates
- Deferred payments for business credit cards
- Access to business finance counselling
Get in touch: Check your business or personal eligibility for assistance by ringing 1800 067 497.
Suncorp will be easing the financial strain on customers during the pandemic, offering support measures for all customers, particularly small businesses who have been hit hard by the current working and trading conditions.
Customers have the opportunity to defer scheduled loan repayments, rearrange loans without establishment fees (perhaps moving from principal plus interest on their repayments to solely interest when income is uncertain), and withdraw early from term deposits without fees. Businesses will be able to do the same for farm management deposits, and also receive working capital assistance. Neither customer type will see interest rates increase.
Get in touch: Give Suncorp a ring on 1300 650 259 or have a chat with your relationship manager to see what assistance is available to you.
Bendigo and Adelaide Bank
Similarly, this bank group has put an assistance package in place across the nation for small business and agribusinesses, as well as consumer customers.
There’s a central focus on loans, with relief on repaying home loan and business loans for up to three months, and a waiver of fees for restructuring and consolidating loans, as well as Bendigo Bank customers getting a discounted interest rate on new loans. Existing credit card holders can apply for an emergency limit increase, while those looking to withdraw their nest egg early from a term deposit won’t see an interest rate reduction. Repayment on equipment financing will be considered for deferral or extension on a case-by-case basis.
Get in touch: Affected customers should contact their local Branch Manager, Business Banker or the Mortgage Help Centre on 1300 652 146 (or on 1300 650 259 for Adelaide Bank customers).
Any banking customers here can apply for assistance if COVID-19 has impacted their financial situation due to illness or inability to work. On a case-by-case basis, Bank of Australia is offering deferrals of scheduled loan repayments , fee waivers, interest-free periods or no interest rate increases, and debt consolidation to help make repayments more manageable.
Get in touch: Ring 132 888 to get your finances sorted with Bank of Australia if you're struggling.
Macquarie Bank are going in with a tailored approach across their customer base, offering things like credit card interest rate reductions, special services for those in extreme financial situations, and loan restructuring and reassessment for business clients. They suggest personal banking customers use their banking app for convenience in lodging requests, and investigate the bank’s approach to financial assistance for more detail.
Get in touch: Macquarie has helpfully designated contact numbers for different financial products. These include:
- Home loans on 1300 363 330
- Credit cards on 1800 674 922
- Leasing on 1300 368 908
- Business banking through your relationship manager or on 1800 620 673
What if my bank isn’t on this list?
Not every institution will have a specific COVID-19 financial assistance package or initiative prepared. However, most will have standard policies for providing support during financial hardship caused by illness, injury or other scenarios impacting customers’ ability to work. Start with the ABA’s financial difficulty page. It provides overarching information and relevant contacts and links to the association’s 22 member banks. If you’re not banking with an ABA member, seek out your bank’s customer assistance phone numbers or recent announcements about their approach to Coronavirus.
Source | Olivia Gee | Monday 16 March 2020