Westpac NZ is welcoming Government regulatory changes that will make it faster and simpler for customers who have been affected by severe weather to apply for a personal temporary overdraft.
The changes provide a temporary exemption to some of the affordability requirements in the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act, so that banks can speed up the finance application process for those who need it.
Westpac NZ chief executive Catherine McGrath says the exemption gives banks an additional tool to support customers.
“When disaster hits, affected customers sometimes need that extra helping hand to get them through, and with so much going on their lives they don’t have capacity to go through a full lending application.
“This exemption from the Government provides a fast and effective way to deliver financial support when and where it is needed.
“We are offering the temporary overdraft at zero percent interest for the first 45 days, with the possibility of extending this period a further 45 days, and there are no establishment fees in setting it up.”
Customers without home loans can apply for a temporary overdraft of up to $2,000, while those who have a mortgage can apply for up to $5,000. It is only available to a bank’s existing customers.
The Government exemption ends on 31 March 2023 and currently covers individuals negatively impacted by severe weather events in January and February – including Ex Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle – in Northland, Auckland, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty.
Other regions affected by the cyclone, such as the eastern coast of the North Island, are expected to be eligible for the same support from early next week.
Westpac NZ also has a range of other assistance also available to customers.
$1 million Small Business Flood Relief Fund
Eligible small business customers financially impacted by Ex Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle or flooding in late January and February can apply for a $2,500 cash grant to help with urgent expenses or repairs.
The fund covers all regions where a state of emergency has been declared since 27 January 2023.
Customers can apply at www.westpac.co.nz. The $1 million fund will remain available until it is fully allocated or until 5pm on 24 February 2023, whichever is earlier. Terms and conditions apply.
Business and personal customers affected by the severe weather may also be able to access the following support:
- Suspension of principal payments for up to three months on business loans
- Deferred payment on business credit cards for up to three months
- A temporary overdraft facility for business customers
- Access to term deposit funds for individuals suffering hardship
- Suspension of home loan payments for up to three months for individuals ahead on their repayments and who have a sufficient undrawn balance
- Hardship support for customers facing significant financial challenges.