Which banks are offering financial relief to customers affected by the recent lockdowns?
With several areas across Australia locked to halt the spread of COVID-19, several of Australia’s leading banks have taken steps to provide support and financial relief to customers who are struggling.
Banks and other lenders first began offering financial assistance such as mortgage freezing in March 2020. While many of these programs were initially offered temporarily, cities like Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Darwin and Alice Springs have been closed, and some banks are providing financial support and relief to affected customers, starting with the Big Four:
- ANZ announced an expanded support package for small business and home loan customers affected by the NSW freeze, including options for short-term payment relief, fee waiver, home loan rescheduling, or switching to a fixed rate loan.
- Commonwealth Bank offers short-term deferral of repayment, as well as options to access funds from home loan offsetting and account suspension, reduction of minimum repayments, and home loan debt restructuring, including moving to fixed rate loans. CBA has also introduced a forced sales freeze through September 2021 for eligible customers.
- SNAP provides assistance to business and residential customers, including temporary payment cuts or pauses, home loan rehabilitation or debt consolidation, and welfare and financial advice.
- Westpacs Support offerings include options to cancel fees and reschedule debt, including deferring or reducing home loan repayments, as well as lowering home loan rates and extending home loan terms. Eligible credit card customers could also receive discounts on their credit card repayments and interest rates for a limited time. Transfers to financial advisors or other support services are also possible.
Some other banks and financial institutions that have announced new COVID-19 relief programs include:
- AMP bankthat offers to defer repayment of home loans, enter into installment agreements or restructuring of home loans, or waive fees for affected customers, as well as free access to financial advisors.
- Bendigo & Adelaide Bankthat provides home loan, home investment loan, credit lines, personal loan, business loan, personal credit card, equipment finance loan, or personal overdraft facility facility. In addition, there are options for restructuring or consolidating loans, for waiving or deferring fees and not reducing the interest rate for early withdrawals of fixed-term deposits.
- BOQ offers eligible customers affected by freezes the option to temporarily defer payments for mortgages and other loans or to switch to pure interest repayments for a limited time. Fees and fees for non-payment of loans or early access to time deposits can also be waived, and there are special rules for arrears.
- Suncorp, which offers customized support, with options such as the deferral of scheduled loan repayments, the switch to pure interest repayment and the waiver of fees for time deposits with advance withdrawals.
Anna Bligh, CEO of the Australian Banking Association (ABA), said: “The message from the banks is clear: don’t tame it alone. Call your bank. They will do whatever they can to help. “While online and phone banking is available, many bank branches will remain open as essential services during the lockdown, according to the ABA.
Before agreeing to changes to your banking or other financial products, it is important to consider the short- and long-term implications of your decision on your financial situation. For example, a mortgage freeze might be a necessary option if, during the lockdown, you have no other option to pay for home loan repayment costs, but the capitalized interest could result in you paying more interest on your property in the longer term. Consider speaking to your bank and / or a financial advisor or mortgage broker before making any commitments.