Overdrawn bank account

You can get help to access your money if your bank account is overdrawn.

Overdrawn account

A bank account is overdrawn if your balance goes below zero.

This can happen if:

  • it looks like you have money to take out but another transaction hasn’t gone through yet
  • you use direct debit to pay your bills.

If the bank account you’ve nominated for your Centrelink payment becomes overdrawn it can create a debt to the bank or reduce the amount of your payment you can access. Your bank might also charge you a fee. You have to pay the amount owed and the fee back to them.

Many banks, building societies and credits unions have agreed to protect your payment. If you contact them, they can arrange to take no more than 10% of your Centrelink payment toward the amount you owe in each pay period until the debt is paid. This means you can access the rest of your payment as normal.

Protected payments

Under the Code of Operation, your bank may have agreed to protect your Centrelink payment if you get any of these:

Under the Code of Operation, your bank may have agreed to protect your Department of Veterans' Affairs payment if you get any of these:

  • Crisis payment
  • Defence Force Income Support Allowance
  • Education Entry Payment
  • Income Support Supplement
  • Periodic Payments of Wholly Dependent Partner's Pension
  • Service Pension - age, invalidity, or partner
  • War Widow(er)'s Pension.

You should contact your bank to arrange a repayment plan of the amount that you owe, and to arrange access to the rest of your payment. You can choose to pay more than 10% of your payment to your bank if you wish.

Speak to your bank about their fees and repayment policies for customers receiving any of these payments.

Example of a protected payment

If your account is overdrawn and you get a payment of $200, the bank can take up to $20, which is 10%, to repay the amount that you owe. The bank can provide you with access to the remaining $180, or 90%, of your payment.

Banks that agree to the protected payment

A list of banks, building societies and credit unions that agree to the Code are on these websites:

When the Code doesn't protect your payment

The Code doesn't protect you if any of these apply:

  • your account is overdrawn due to a dishonest or unlawful act
  • a third party gets money you owe them direct from your account due to a court order
  • the overdrawn account is not the account you have nominated to get your Services Australia income support payment.

Help from your bank

Talk to your bank if you overdraw your account. They can help you manage your debt.

If you can't resolve disputes with your bank, you can contact the following:

Help from us

If you don’t have enough money to live on, we can help. We'll check if your bank has followed the Code. Call your regular payment number if you’d like us to help.

You can read:

If English isn't your first language, you can either:

Other support services

Find a financial counsellor in your area on the Financial Counselling Australia website.

Page last updated: 5 October 2021