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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.

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
  • Apple Pay, Google Pay
  • Monthly fees: $0

HSBC Everyday Global Account

The HSBC Everyday Global Account is one of the best bank accounts for travelling as it has no account keeping fees, no international transaction fees and access to free ATMs around the world. You can hold up to 10 different currencies in the one account, which allows you to top up on a currency while the exchange rate is good, then spend in that local currency while you're overseas. Plus, earn 2% cashback on tap and pay purchases (T&Cs apply).
The HSBC Everyday Global Account is one of the best bank accounts for travelling as it has no account keeping fees, no international transaction fees and access to free ATMs around the world. You can hold up to 10 different currencies in the one account, which allows you to top up on a currency while the exchange rate is good, then spend in that local currency while you're overseas. Plus, earn 2% cashback on tap and pay purchases (T&Cs apply).

Compare travel debit cards

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Name Monthly fee Govt. Guarantee Own network ATM fee Card type
HSBC Everyday Global Account
Finder AwardApple Pay Google Pay10 Currencies
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Earn 2% cashback on tap and pay purchases.

Suncorp Everyday Options Account
Apple Pay Google Pay
Monthly fee
Government Guarantee
Own network ATM fee
Card type
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Up Everyday Account
Apple Pay Google Pay Samsung Pay Fitbit Pay Garmin Pay
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Compare travel debit cards

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14 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    OpeyemiSeptember 2, 2023

    please am in eygpt country and i have been trying to make a transaction since yesterday is not going through and i think my account as been lock and i want to unlock it

      SarahSeptember 4, 2023Finder

      Hello, this is a review and comparison site, so you’ll need to contact your bank directly to get help with your issue. Best of luck, we hope it gets sorted quickly for you!

    Default Gravatar
    AndrewAugust 4, 2023

    Commonwealth Bank in Australia locked me out of my online banking because I was buying Bitcoin via an exchange. Their scams department interrogated me asking questions including: Why are you buying Bitcoin? What to do hope to achieve from buying Bitcoin? Who advised you? Why are you using this exchange? How many Bitcoin do you own? Provide us with your wallet address so we can verify the details?. Then they locked me out when I didn’t provide them with my wallet address. After being locked out, I sent them this. They confirmed that they had received it and never unlocked my accounts. I had to go to a branch to close my accounts and transfer money to another branch. My question is, is this legal? If I didn’t have a bank account with another branch I would have been screwed. Caused me a great deal of stress and loss of potential Bitcoin gains. I would like to take them to court.

      AlisonAugust 7, 2023Finder

      Hi Andrew, I’m sorry to hear about your experience. I’d suggest you seek some personal financial or legal advice about this matter, as we’re only able to offer general advice on products and services.

    Default Gravatar
    VladoApril 17, 2023

    dear sir/madam my netban is locked kan you pleasa unlocked as i,m tempoarli overseas and i needed account thank you

      SarahApril 18, 2023Finder

      Hi Vlado,

      We are a comparison site, we’re not directly affiliated with any bank or lender.

      You’ll need to contact your bank directly to regain access to your account.

    Default Gravatar
    IanMarch 16, 2023

    My commbank was locked because the bank noticed some suspicious activities, after some hours my brother send money to the account without notifying me, please can the money be reversed to my brother?

      SarahMarch 17, 2023Finder

      Hi Ian,

      You’ll need to contact CommBank directly to resolve this – you can reach them on 13 2221.

      Hope this helps!

    Default Gravatar
    MarcelleMarch 5, 2023

    My bank account with Pen Financial has been blocked off in Dunnville Ontario because l tried login 3 times . Very important that l pay my rent tomorrow the latest . Can’t use any other accounts, or credit cards all maxed . I only pay by e transfer bank charged to much for new cheques. How do l unblocked my account and put in new PCA thank you.

      SarahMarch 5, 2023Finder

      Hi Marcelle,

      You’ll need to contact your bank directly. On their website they suggest:
      To reset your Online Banking you need to visit a branch or call our Contact Centre at 1-866-866-6641.

      Hope this helps.

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