Major banks have agreed to remove the fees for non-customers withdrawing cash from their ATMs in flood-affected areas during the initial disaster recovery phase.
In the past 24 hours, Treasurer Wayne Swan and Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten have worked with the big four banks, the Bank of Queensland, Suncorp and the Bendigo Bank who have all agreed to a moratorium on foreign ATM fees in Queensland's flood declared postcodes as the state begins to recover from the devastating floods. The Government is also speaking to a number of credit unions and building societies.
"We have been working closely with the banking sector, the Australia Bankers Association and credit unions and building societies to ensure people who have lost their homes and others affected by the floods won't have to worry about paying up to $2 to access their money if they cannot make it to their own bank's facilities at this difficult time," the Treasurer said.
"The moratorium on foreign ATM fees will begin within the next 24 hours, and will apply to all ATMs at participating banks in flood-affected postcodes in Queensland. This will be reviewed after four weeks by the Commonwealth, ANZ, Westpac, Suncorp, Bendigo and Bank of Queensland, while NAB, have agreed to initially apply the moratorium for a 2 week period and then review. Major credit unions have also agreed to the moratorium", the Assistant Treasurer said.
These measures come on top of the discussions already held between the Assistant Treasurer and the banking sector earlier this week, which recognised the emotional and financial pressures on so many citizens and the sustained recovery and rebuilding phase that will follow the emergency relief period.
The Government has taken the opportunity to hear directly how banking services are coping with issues like branch inundation, power outages and how banks can structure their services for affected customers in a way that best assists this rebuilding process. Banking representatives have noted that they have well developed processes in place to deal with crisis situations, with inundated bank branches reopening as soon as possible to assist customers.
The sector is working with financial counselling and consumer credit advocates to ensure that the hardship measures they are putting in place are consistent and adequate now and in the long term.
"I am sure this moratorium on ATM fees, while relatively small in the scheme of the floods, will be very welcome to those Queenslanders will feel the impact of the disaster for some time. We will continue to talk to the banks about how financial pressures can be eased as the rebuilding process begins across communities," Mr Shorten said.
14 January 2011