What to do if your bank account is locked

Here’s how to unlock your frozen bank account, and how to prevent it from being locked in the first place.

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It can be scary and frustrating to discover that your bank account has been frozen, particularly in a time when very few of us have cash to hand. Unable to pay for goods or services, or to pay your direct debits and bills, can leave you in a tricky situation.

The good news is that it's fairly quick and easy to unlock your bank account, even if it's been locked while you're travelling overseas.

This guide lists what steps to take to unlock your bank account. And because prevention is better than a cure, we'll also explain how to avoid having your account locked in the first place. You can also compare a range of travel debit cards in this guide that are convenient options for accessing your money overseas.

Why might my account be locked?

In the modern world of online banking, mobile payments, ATMs and PINs, banks need to be more vigilant than ever to protect their customers against fraud. Phishing, email scams, online hacking and good old-fashioned identity theft are just some of the risks banks must monitor and provide protection against.

As part of this protection, banks have systems in place to monitor customer accounts for any suspicious activity, such as a rarely-used credit card all of a sudden being used to rack up thousands of dollars of spending. Another tell-tale sign of suspicious account activity is when your Australian credit or debit card is, without warning, used to make a range of purchases overseas.

How to unlock your account

If you need to “unlock” your account, you’ll need to contact your bank as soon as possible. If your account has been locked because of a security issue, you might find the only way to do this is by phoning your bank’s emergency assistance or help line. If the bank thinks there is suspicious activity on your account, you might have trouble logging in to Internet or mobile banking.

Make sure you have your bank account and personal details to hand so you can quickly identify yourself to the bank.

If you're overseas, you can make a reverse charges call to find out what is going on and regain access to your account. Just remember that it’s a good idea to use a landline if possible, as overseas calls from mobiles can be ridiculously expensive. The contact details of some of Australia’s “Big Four” banks are listed below:

Contact numbers for Australian banks

BankPhone numberWorking hours
Commonwealth Bank+61 2 9999 328324 hours a day, 7 days a week
Westpac+61 2 9155 774424 hours a day, 7 days a week
ANZ+61 3 9683 999924 hours a day, 7 days a week
NAB+61 3 8641 912124 hours a day, 7 days a week

How to avoid your bank account being frozen

  • Tell your bank before you go overseas. Through Internet or mobile banking you can tell your financial institution that you are planning to go overseas and during which dates. This lets the bank know that any overseas transactions are likely to be legitimate, but also allows them to keep an eye on other suspicious activity that may come as a result of using your card abroad.
  • Be aware of scams. Watch out for any scams that may end up in fraudulent activity on your account. While banks have processes in place to spot any suspicious activity, it is always important to be vigilant and cautious. Don't click on unknown links, don't share your card details with unknown callers and don't download suspicious attachments.
  • Protect your PIN. Never share your PIN with anyone and be careful when you're typing in your PIN at an ATM machine. Card skimming is another way fraudsters can access your account and if your bank catches on, it may freeze your account.

Using your bank account overseas

One cause for accounts being frozen is when consumers use their cards overseas without telling their financial institution they are travelling. This is arguably one of the most frustrating situations, as you are left without access to your finances in a different country.

You can, and should, still contact your bank immediately so it can resolve the issue and unfreeze your account.

Overseas money tips

Consider a travel money card. Loading up a travel money card with foreign currency before you go allows you to take advantage of the best exchange rate and avoid unnecessary fees. It also means if something does happen to your bank account, you can still access these funds.

Get travel insurance. Comprehensive travel insurance can provide protection against lost or stolen credit cards and the theft of cash, including cover for credit card fraud.

Use cash and cards. Make sure to take a combination of cash and cards with you so you can pay for all your purchases.

Lock it or block it. If you're worried about falling victim to thieves or fraudsters while overseas, you can contact your bank before you go to lock or block your credit card, or perhaps lower your transaction limit.

Bank account offer
HSBC Everyday Global Account
monthly fee
ATM withdrawal fee
  • Google Pay, Apple Pay
  • Monthly fees: $0
  • No international transaction fees
  • Up to 10 currencies

HSBC Everyday Global Account

Earn 2% cashback on tap and pay purchases. T&Cs apply.
Earn 2% cashback on tap and pay purchases. T&Cs apply.

Compare travel debit cards

1 - 3 of 3
Name Product Contactless Payments Instant Payments ATM Withdrawal Fee Monthly account fee
HSBC Everyday Global Account
Google Pay, Apple Pay
Earn 2% cashback on tap and pay purchases. T&Cs apply.
Enjoy no minimum ongoing balance or transaction requirements and the flexibility to hold up to 10 currencies. Apple Pay and Google Pay available.

Citi Global Currency Account
Apple Pay, Samsung Pay
Osko, PayID
Earn up to 0.7% p.a. interest on your AUD balance.
$0 monthly account fee.
Enjoy one linked debit card to hold up to 10 currencies and receive foreign currencies for free.
Up Everyday Account
Google Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Fitbit Pay, Garmin Pay
Osko, PayID
A transaction account designed for your smartphone with spending categorisation and a round-up feature to help you save. No international transaction fees and no ATM fees in Australia.

Compare up to 4 providers

Compare travel debit cards

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2 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    KayAugust 28, 2018

    I met this guy a few weeks ago online and he is currently to be in Dubai. He had taken large containers with him from his business, stating to me he had paid all fees and taxes upfront. He informed me that he owes an additional$30,000.00 but his off sure bank has locked his account and is preventing him from transferring money from his account. Who can I report him to if this is suspicious

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JoshuaAugust 29, 2018Staff

      Hi Kay,

      Thanks for getting in touch with Finder. I hope all is well with you. :)

      It would be a good idea to be cautious when dealing with people on the internet. If you want to report an online scam or suspicious online activities, you may want to get in touch with ACCC, Australian Federal Police, or to the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out again.

      Have a wonderful day!


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