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 account your Centrelink payment goes into is overdrawn, your bank may reduce how much 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 Centrelink payment. You can ask them to take no more than 10% of your Centrelink payment each pay period. You can have this arrangement until you’ve paid the debt.

Protected payments

Under the Code of Operation, your bank may have agreed to protect your Centrelink payment . The Code applies if you get any of the following payments:

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

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

You should contact your bank to arrange a plan to repay the amount you owe. You can also talk to them to make sure you can access 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 getting 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. They use this to repay the amount you owe. They can let you access 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 Australian Financial Complaints Authority through their website.

Help from us

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

You can read:

If English isn’t your first language, you can:

Other support services

You can find a financial counsellor in your area on the National Debt Helpline website.

Information in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages

We have information to help you learn about the Code of Operation in these Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages:

Page last updated: 30 August 2023.
QC 29351