My bank account is overdrawn

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

How a bank account can be overdrawn

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

It is then a debt to the bank. Your bank might also charge you a fee. You have to pay the debt and fee back to them.

Sometimes your bank will take money from your account to pay off the debt and fee. They can take no more than 10% of your Centrelink payment. This is to protect your payment.

Bank means a bank, building society or credit union where you have an account.

Protected payments

Under the Code of Operation, your bank can take no more than 10% of your payment if you get:

Also, if you get one of the payments above, your bank can take no more than 10% of your:

And, they can take no more than 10% of these Department of Veterans' Affairs payments:

  • 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 can repay more than 10% if you wish.

This agreement does not cover all other types of income. Speak to your bank about their fees and repayment policies.

For example

If you get a payment of $200, you can keep at least $180 (90%) of your payment. The bank can take up to $20 (10%) to repay the debt and fee.

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:

  • your account is overdrawn due to a dishonest or unlawful act
  • a third party gets money you owe them from your account - for example, they have a court order to do so


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

You need to respond to requests from your bank about your debt within 60 days. If you don’t they could:

  • report this to a credit reporting body that could affect your credit rating, or
  • take legal action to force you to repay your debt

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

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.


Call our Multilingual Phone Service to speak with a skilled bilingual service officer about Centrelink payments and services, or ask for an interpreter at a service centre.

Other support services

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

Page last updated: 7 September 2017