With increasing instances of banks around the world prohibiting their clients from buying bitcoin and any other cryptocurrency using their accounts, word had spread that Australian banks would follow suit soon.
However, Australia’s biggest banks have ruled out any notion of barring customers from buying cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. A few US-based Wall Street banks and one major UK banking group have already disallowed purchase of bitcoin and other cryptos using credit cards.
However, Australia’s traditional ‘big four’ banks won’t be withholding their customers from buying cryptocurrencies using their banks’ services, including credit cards, Australia’s ABC news reports.
While Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) rejects dealing with businesses operating as ‘issuers, dealers or exchanges’ of cryptocurrency due to their unregulated nature, the bank has no qualms about its customers buying cryptocurrencies with their money.
Speaking to ABC, an ANZ spokesman said the bank: “[D]oes not prohibit buying digital or cryptocurrencies, or accepting them as a form of payment.”
A spokeswoman for Westpac, Australia’s second-largest bank by market capitalization, added: “We currently have no restrictions on credit card use to purchase cryptocurrency.”
National Australia Bank (NAB), meanwhile, hinted at putting the brakes on ‘some card transactions’ to reduce customer risks if certain security flags are triggered. While the Commonwealth bank hasn’t confirmed or denied such a policy, there are no instances to suggest the bank is barring customers from buying cryptocurrencies.
Australia is already pressing ahead with regulations for cryptocurrency exchanges with new legislation bringing exchange operators under the purview of the country’s financial intelligence agency and watchdog, AUSTRAC.
While the banks’ stance could change in the future, their clear statements in the present run contrary to the moves made by a handful of major retail banks in the UK and the US. Yesterday, British banking giant Lloyds Group confirmed it would block its 9 million credit card users from buying cryptocurrencies, fearing a rise in future unpaid debts amid volatile cryptocurrency markets. The ban extends to its subsidiary banks Halifax, MBNA and the Bank of Scotland.
Llyods’ shift in policy to bar cryptocurrency purchases follows similar moves made by two major US banks over the weekend. JPMorgan Chase, the largest US bank, and Bank of America have both placed a ban on cryptocurrency purchases using credit cards. JPMorgan’s ban went into effect on Saturday while BoA’s ban, which extends to personal and business credit cards, kicked in on Friday. Citigroup has also halted cryptocurrency purchases on its credit cards but confirmed it would ‘review’ its policy as the cryptocurrency market evolves.