The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has granted banks regulatory relief to fast track the issuance of debit cards to ‘vulnerable customers’ dependent on cash amidst the Covid-19 crisis.

It is estimated that banks will issue debit cards to more than half a million passbook holders who rely on passbooks and branch visits to manage their cash.

The overwhelming majority of these customers are over 70 years of age, who have been advised by the Australian government to remain indoors as much as possible during the pandemic.

It has become tough for these customers to carry out transactions as many retailers are declining cash payments over concerns that they spread the virus.

Responding to the regulator’s decision, Members of the Australian Banking Association (ABA) and the Customer Owned Banking Association (COBA) said that they will now fast-track the issuance of debit cards.

Australian Banking Association CEO Anna Bligh said this was an important step in ensuring no one was left behind when it comes to banking services, regardless of the level of lockdown a community is experiencing because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“Paying for goods and services is critical for every single person in our community and will continue regardless of the level of lockdown in our community.

“We understand that some people who haven’t used a debit card in the past might have concerns over safety and security, however, they should rest assured that it’s safe, it’s secure and you can track your spending.”