Millions in danger of being ‘unbanked’

Millions of Aussie customers are being quietly dumped by their banks without their knowledge, in a practice known as ‘unbanking’, one leading financial advisor is warning. Has this happened to you?

Across the Australian financial sector, banks are closing branches, shutting down services such as telephone enquiry lines and refusing to accept cheques.

The bank still has you as a customer, there’s just no way for you to actually access any of their services. It’s a disturbing trend known as ‘unbanking’, says financial advisor Alex Jamieson, and its one that is disproportionately affecting older people.

“It is a trend we are seeing all over Australia,” he says.

“If you are an older Australian, not particularly tech savvy, someone who deals in cash or someone who lives in regional areas, chances are your bank is closing down services on you making it almost impossible for you to engage with them.

“Banks are happy to have your money in their account so they can use it, however they don’t want you to use it if it means they have to help you in any way.”

Mr Jamieson is calling on the federal government to step in and force the banks into minimum service levels. He says the loss of cheque-processing in particular will have an oversized impact on older people.

“Banks are starting to phase out cheques due to the administration burden of processing the payments and the increasing risk of scams/fraud with this payment method.  This is both for domestic and international cheques, and we are seeing this trend across the market,” he says.

Reducing services increases scams

More than 300,000 Aussies fell victim to a bank scam last year, with around $292 million lost, according to figures released by the Australian Banking Association (ABA).

Bank branches have historically been a kind of haven against bank scam and their removal will undoubtedly lead to more losses. Mr Jamieson says the transition away from physical branches will expose the elderly and the less tech savvy to much more scam activity.

“These individuals are often operating their internet banking on outdated software and hardware that is vulnerable to hackers,” he says.

“The bank may have the most sophisticated computer infrastructure, but if the individual is using a 10-plus-year-old computer with software that is out of date, this places the bank customer at a much-elevated risk to being exposed to hackers and scams.”

Banks breaking their social licence

Mr Jamieson says that by closing branches and removing services, banks are not keeping their end of the bargain they have with society.

“Banks are supposed to be havens for our money, where we can put our savings in a safe place and access them when we need them,” he says.

“Unfortunately, people are being debanked and will soon be left with no means of engaging with their bank. This is a big issue for many people that is about to get worse as more banks quietly unbank people in the hope of eliminating customers who might need a bit more help.

“What is happening is unAustralian and something needs to be done about it.”

Is your bank’s local branch still operating? Are they still offering all services? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Seven common mistakes to avoid when writing a will

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyer
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.


  1. Well our local ANZ bank is not closed but gone through a renovation. It appears that the only things they deal with inside the branch are loans. I wanted to order some overseas currencies in cash, don’t do that anymore and neither do their big branches.
    I wanted to open a new greater interest account and swap money from another account. Have to do everything on the APP on your phone, no thanks. I have had instances where I need to call them as they have shut the secure mail. I have had to hang on so long I gave up.
    The call centre is in the Philippines where the data breach in NSW was today.
    Really not much service at all and the ATMs getting fewer and far between.

  2. Yes, had an annoying experience yesterday in Sunbury (Vic). We needed to refresh our stock of $2 coins for the coffee machine in our village clubhouse, so went down the 33 kms to Sunbury and withdrew $100 from the ATM at the CBA branch (we are CBA customers). Hopped inside, hung around for a while in the queue of 1, then finally asked the single teller for $100 worth of $2 coins. “Can I have your bank card” was the response. I thought, what the hell is this ? I do not need to show my ATM card to change some $$$ notes. “Goodbye, I’m going to the next bank” was my response. Grabbed my $100 worth of CBA banknotes and went almost next door to the ANZ branch. Again, “What the hell?” There’s no tellers, just people sitting round in little alcoves talking to customers. OK, off to the (almost next door) Westpac branch. Yay! I see a row of teller windows, Yay! a teller at one of the windows! “Please give me $100 worth of $2 coins” I ask, offering her the CBA sourced banknotes – “no worries sir, her you are”, and off I go at last with the damned coins. What a ludicrous Monty Python-esque fiasco !

  3. Yes Banks are NOT considering their older clients at all especially regarding cheques, I do
    not use them much but do twice a month – as we cannot always get out for cash, as we do not drive anymore.
    Also we do get good service from our Bank but the branch we have used for over 40 years
    has closed down and moved to a Shopping Centre which is inconvenmient for us – so have to
    rely on family to get there, which is not always convenient for them.
    It has made life more difficult.

- Our Partners -


- Advertisment -
- Advertisment -