What do to if your bank account is locked while travelling overseas

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

We’re reader-supported and may be paid when you visit links to partner sites. We don’t compare all products in the market, but we’re working on it!

Imagine you're travelling overseas and upon attempting to use your debit card you discover that your bank has frozen your account. While this sounds like a scary and frustrating situation, the good news is that it's fairly quick and easy to unlock your bank account 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.

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 banks thinks there's suspicious activity on your account, you might have trouble logging into Internet or mobile banking.

If you're overseas, you can make a reverse charges call from 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 9293 927024 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

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 telltale sign of suspicious account activity is when your Australian credit or debit card is, without warning, used to make a range of purchases overseas.

Tell your bank before you go overseas

Have you ever received an email, letter or Internet banking message from your bank urging you to let them know if you’re going overseas? The reason banks send out these communiques is so that if foreign transactions start showing up on your account, they can be sure you haven’t been a victim of fraud, you’re just using your card to make purchases on your holiday.

Every Australian bank, credit union and building society will have a system in place for customers to notify them before heading overseas. The exact process varies from one bank to the next, but the easiest way to do so is typically to login to your Internet banking account. Alternatively, you could phone the bank directly or maybe inform the bank of your travel plans through its mobile banking app.

You can specify the countries you will be visiting and the travel dates, and you can also provide details of the best way for the bank to get in touch with you while overseas. You can log back into Internet banking at any time, even if you’re already overseas, to make changes to your travel plans.

Once your bank has been informed that you’re heading overseas, it will expect some overseas transactions and can also monitor your account more closely for signs of suspicious activity.

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

Special offer: $100 cash bonus for new HSBC customers. Earn 2% cashback on tap and pay purchases (T&C's apply).
Special offer: $100 cash bonus for new HSBC customers. Earn 2% cashback on tap and pay purchases (T&C's apply).

Compare travel debit cards

Name Product Card access ATM Withdrawal Fee Fee Free Deposit p.m. Monthly account fee
HSBC Everyday Global Account
Special offer: $100 cash bonus for new HSBC customers.
Earn 2% cashback on tap and pay purchases (T&C's apply).
Enjoy no minimum ongoing balance or transaction requirements and the flexibility to hold up to 10 currencies. Apple Pay and Google Pay available.

Great Southern Bank Everyday Snap Account
Refund of international ATM withdrawal fees and international card transaction fees (conditions apply).
$0 monthly account fee. Unlimited fee-free everyday transactions.
Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay available. Savings Top Up tool automatically transfers to linked savings account.
Citi Global Currency Account
Pay $0 international transaction fees and $0 overseas ATM fees when you use a foreign currency linked with your account in a country that uses that currency. Make sure your debit card is linked to the correct currency before using an ATM, otherwise a foreign exchange fee applies.

Compare up to 4 providers

Other tips for accessing money overseas

There are plenty of other useful money tips that can make things easier for you when travelling overseas:

  • 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. Of course, it also offers a long list of other benefits, such as cover for trip cancellations and overseas medical emergencies.
  • Use cash and cards. Make sure to take a combination of cash and cards with you so you can pay for all your purchases. There are some situations overseas where cash will be the only payment option, while cards add extra flexibility and security.
  • Don’t exchange currency at the airport. Airport foreign exchange bureaus have you right where they want you and can therefore get away with offering poor exchange rates. You’ll get a better deal if you purchase your foreign currency in advance or even when you arrive at your destination.
  • Check card expiry dates. You don’t want to get halfway around the world only to discover that your credit or debit card is about to expire. Check all card expiry dates before you leave to avoid any nasty surprises.
  • Lock it or block it. If you’re worried about falling victim to thieves or fraudsters while overseas, you can take some simple steps to ensure this doesn’t happen – or at least to minimise the damage. If you contact your bank before you go you can lock or block your credit card, or perhaps lower your transaction limit.

Compare travel debit cards

More guides on Finder

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com.au:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com.au is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Terms of Use, Disclaimer & Privacy Policy and Privacy & Cookies Policy.

2 Responses

    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!


Go to site