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Experiencing financial hardship - What Can I Do?

The majority of customers don’t call their bank if they’re feeling like they’re losing control of their finances or experiencing financial difficulty. This is a mistake.

Unfortunately, most customers call when they’re already behind in their repayments or they’ve received a letter from their bank’s collections team. In this instance, your bank may refer to your account being delinquent, in default or in arrears. If that is the case, it’s important to be honest about your situation with your bank. A customer may still be able to receive hardship assistance even if they are in arrears, however the earlier you contact your bank (before you are in arrears) the more likely it is the bank will be able to provide you with help.

If:

  1. Your financial position has changed and you think your repayment capacity may be impacted,
  2. You don't think you can make your next repayment,
  3. You have missed a repayment or
  4. Can’t catch up on your arrears

Can’t catch up on your arrears contact your bank for assistance. The sooner you contact your bank the better.

If you think you are in financial hardship, you should take the following steps:

Step 1: Assess your personal circumstances

Perhaps you already know you’re facing financial hardship or you might just be feeling financially squeezed and that you are losing control of your finances. Either way it is important to look at your income and expenses (known as your “financial position”) so you understand how much you can afford to repay on your loans, while still having enough money for essential items like rent, utilities, food etc.

You should consider your overall living expenses and consider which are essential and which are not.

To help you work out your financial position, see our online tool

To help you understand whether you’re experiencing financial hardship, see our List of Warning Signs

Did you know?

Being prepared with this information will make the hardship process easier for you and your bank as your bank will ask about your financial position and what you think you can afford to repay.

However, if you’re confused or overwhelmed, don’t give up. Contact your bank and the specialist hardship staff can help you work out your financial position.

You should also contact your other creditors, including your gas, electricity and phone or internet service providers, to discuss your situation

Step 2: Call your bank and give a hardship notice

If you’re experiencing financial hardship, you should call the specialist hardship team at your bank as soon as possible.

Let the bank know you either can’t afford, or don’t think you will be able to afford your repayments. This is known as providing a ‘hardship notice’. You can give this notice either verbally or in-writing and once you give this notice you and your bank have responsibilities to take actions within certain timeframes. For more information on the hardship process click here

To help you get in touch with your banks’ financial hardship team, see the List of Bank Contacts

When you speak to the financial hardship team, be frank and honest with them about your personal circumstances so they can determine if, and how, they can help you. Let them know your financial situation has changed and that you would like the bank to consider whether it can provide you with hardship assistance. The bank may then ask you what has caused your financial position to change and for some relevant information.

Step 3: Provide information to your bank

Your bank may ask you for some information to help it assess your financial situation and are allowed to ask for this under the law – the National Consumer Credit Protection Act (2009).

This information will help your bank understand your financial position, and allows you to explain how your personal circumstances have changed and whether you expect them to improve in the future.

The type of information your bank will need depends on a number of factors and may include, for example:

  • Statement of Financial Position which outlines your income, expenditure, assets and liabilities
  • employment contract and/or payslips
  • account statements
  • Centrelink statement and/or social security payment details
  • medical certificate from a qualified medical practitioner or proof of Disability Support Pension
  • separation statement
  • contract of sale
  • consent from joint borrower (where required).

This information together with an explanation of your circumstances and the steps you’re taking to return to a position where you can afford your repayments, will help your bank consider things, such as:

  • What obligations you’re able to meet,
  • Whether your situation is likely to improve,
  • Whether or not you’re able to resume repayments in the short-term (3 – 6 months),
  • Whether you reasonably expect to meet repayment obligations if your credit contract was changed,
  • What assistance measures will be suitable for you and your situation. Some examples are here.

Step 4: Keep talking to your bank

Your bank will always look for a suitable solution for you. However, in some circumstances it may not always be possible or appropriate for a bank to provide hardship assistance when this would not be in your best interest or is not considered to be acceptable by the bank.

If your bank does agree to an arrangement, you’ll need to make sure you meet your obligations under the agreement. The bank will also provide you with details of the arrangement and, if applicable, a new repayment plan.

If you find that you’re unable to meet the new repayment plan as agreed, you should recontact your bank straight away to discuss your situation. Your bank could decide a new arrangement.

If your bank doesn’t agree to provide you with assistance because it wouldn’t help you restore your financial position in the long run, you can read more here