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What to do if your bank account is locked

It can be scary and frustrating to discover that your bank account has been frozen – here's what to do if your bank account gets locked.

Your bank account might be frozen if you've entered your password incorrectly a few times, or if your account has been accessed by hackers or scammers. When fraud or theft is involved, most people first realise there's an issue when they can't log on to their internet banking website or app.

In the modern world of online banking, mobile payments and cryptocurrency, banks need to be more vigilant than ever to protect their customers against fraud. Phishing, email scams, online hacking and identity theft are on the rise – in the December 2023 quarter, Australians reported $82.1 million in losses to Scamwatch in just the previous 3 months – which is why banks have a number of systems in place to monitor customer accounts for suspicious activity.

A flag for banks might be:

  • a rarely-used credit card all of a sudden being used to make a purchase.
  • your Australian credit or debit card being used, without warning, to make purchases overseas.
  • the password being entered incorrectly 3 to 5 times or more, as this could indicate that an unauthorised person is trying to access your bank account.

Finder survey: For what reasons do Australians report having their bank account locked?

I have not had my account locked59.56%
Suspicious activity19.02%
Lost/stolen card16.14%
Incorrect PIN entries15.14%
Device changes5.58%
Phishing attempts4.88%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1004 Australians, December 2023

How to unlock your bank account from within Australia

  1. Contact your bank as soon as possible to report the issue and request a reset of your password. You can call them or visit a branch. They will need to verify your identity, so if you visit a branch, bring photo ID.
  2. If it is out of your bank's normal business hours, contact their emergency assistance or help line. This line is staffed by people who can help you with next steps if your account has been locked because of a security issue or suspected fraud.
  3. If the bank thinks there is suspicious activity on your account, contact your credit card providers immediately to cancel your cards. If they may have access to your savings account, ask your bank what your options are to protect your savings.

How to unlock your bank account if you're overseas

If you're overseas, follow the same steps as above, but note you can also make a reverse charges call to find out what is going on and regain access to your account. The emergency 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

Because prevention is better than a cure, here's 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.

  • Tell your bank before you go overseas. Through Internet or mobile banking, you can tell your financial institution that you're planning to go overseas and the dates you're away. 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.
  • Set up 2-factor authentication. Whereever possible, adding 2-factor authentication or any additional security measures offered by your bank so you have the peace of mind of an extra level of security.

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. You can contact your bank immediately so it can resolve the issue and unfreeze your account, but it's worth letting them know you're travelling overseas before you go to avoid any issues.

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.

Compare travel debit cards

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Written by

Sarah Megginson

As an authority on all things personal finance, Sarah Megginson is passionate about helping you save money and make money. She is an editor and money expert with 20 years’ experience and an extensive background in property and finance journalism. Sarah holds ASIC RG146-compliant Tier 1 Generic Knowledge certification, and she's a regular media commentator, appearing weekly on TV (Sunrise, Channel 7 news, Nine news), radio (KIIS FM, Triple M, 3AW, 2GB, 6PR) and in digital and print media. See full profile

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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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