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Your safety
Only take the actions below if it is safe to do so. You are the best judge of whether making any changes might lead to further harm. In an emergency, call 999.

How banks can help

If a current or former partner has interfered with your money, finances or things that money can buy, such as accommodation, food and transport, to limit your choices, this information is for you. It outlines how your bank or building society can support you if you have experienced economic abuse in the context of domestic abuse. 

“He had access to all of my bank statements and accounts. I didn’t know anything about his finances. For him, it was just another method of control.”

How banks can help – information video

Reporting economic abuse to your bank or building society

Approaching your bank about abuse can be daunting, but your bank or building society could be an important source of information and support. If it is safe to do so, speaking to someone at your bank or building society can help you take steps to regain control of your money. They may be able to suggest ways of de-linking your finances from those of the abuser. They may also suggest ways of ensuring any new banking information is safe and secure to help prevent further abuse. The bank is there to listen and support you. 

Contacting your bank 

There are many ways in which you can contact your bank to tell them about the abuse you have experienced. You can phone the bank or visit the branch in person. Many banks also have the option to share this information with them via their website or app, if you would prefer to do this online.  

If you are reporting economic abuse to your bank, you may wish to:

  • Make a note, if safe to do so, of the key details you want to explain to the bank so that you don’t forget when you speak to them, especially if you are feeling nervous.   
  • Ask whether you can speak to someone in the vulnerable customer team, if they have one. The relevant team may also be called the customer advocacy team, or it could be a general customer care team. A member of this team may have more specific knowledge to support you.  
  • Ask for the conversation to be recorded on your file, so that you don’t have to repeat it in the future.  
  • If you feel safe to do so, ask for the fact you are experiencing abuse to be noted on your file. This means that the bank should not disclose information to the abuser if they contact them, for example if you have a joint account or mortgage.  
  • Ask to continue the conversation at another time if you need a break, or ask to speak to someone else if you are not happy with the service.  
  • Ask to speak to someone privately, if speaking in person, so that your conversation cannot be overheard by other customers.  

The bank has a duty to support you, and you won’t be penalised or blacklisted for reporting abuse and seeking their support.  

Your bank’s response

“Advocacy is so important, especially when you are fearing homelessness and losing the children. I found a senior person in the bank who advocated on my behalf from within. His advice made a huge difference.”

There is guidance for banks and building societies from the Financial Conduct Authority on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers.  This includes customers who have experienced economic abuse. Many banks have also signed up to the 2021 Financial Abuse Code, which guides industry responses to customers who have experienced financial and economic abuse. 

Industry guidance  

Responses can vary across different banks, but the guidance outlines that your bank or building society should:  

  • Respond with empathy: Staff should respond in a waythat is sensitive to the issues you are facing.  
  • Ensure the conversation is confidential: If speaking in person or on the phone about the abuse you have experienced, your conversation should not be overheard by other customers.   
  • Be flexible: Your bank should be responsive to your needs and may be able to take action that is outside their normal procedure to support you. This may include offering you a longer appointment, moving deadlines to give you more time to make any financial decisions, and reviewing charges and fees. The flexibility that banks can offer will vary, and some may be able to offer more flexibility than others, depending on their policies.  
  • Not ask you to repeat your story: Where possible, staff should record information securely on your file so that other staff members and departments can access it.  Some banks may be more advanced than others in minimising the need for you to repeat your experiences.  
  • Offer specialist help: Bank staff may know of specialist services and external sources of help relevant to your situation (eg specialist debt services or independent legal advice). Specialist services can provide you with information to help you make financial decisions.  
  • Speak to your family or friends: If you feel it is safe and you are happy for your bank to speak to a friend, family member or advocacy service on your behalf, you can ask for this. 
  • Alert the police: If your bank feels that you may be in immediate danger, they can alert the police on your behalf. If alerting the police may put you at risk, clearly explain your concerns to the bank staff member.  

Your banks policy 

Your bank may have its own policy on supporting vulnerable customers. You may be able to search online for this. You could also call to ask them about the steps they take to support customers facing difficult circumstances and the options that may be available to you. 

Help to regain control of your finances 

There are several ways that your bank can support you to regain control of your finances, if it is safe for you to do so. Your bank should make the options that you have clear to you, without pressurising you to take any specific action.  

Staying safe  

If you think that someone else may have access to your PIN or online banking passwords, your bank can support you to change these. They can also:  

  • issue a new card and PIN to a new address rather than the address they have on file for you, if you wish 
  • send statements and other letters to a different address, which could be a refuge or safe house with a PO Box if you have left your home due to the risk of immediate danger.  

Controlling who has access to your account  

Your bank can help you to remove any access that the abuser may have to your account. They can give additional access to someone you trust, if you request it.  

Managing joint accounts  

If you have a joint account with the abuser, your bank may be able to help you de-link your finances. They may be able to freeze the account for you, which will stop any payments or withdrawals being made.   

Reversing this requires the consent of both parties, so consider carefully whether you want to do this. When a court order is served, the bank is legally required to stop all activity on the account.  

Opening a new bank account  

Your bank can help you to open a new account that is only in your name to help you manage your money independently. However, you may prefer to open a new account with a different bank to avoid the risk of accounts being linked.  

If you do not have access to the documents that are usually needed to prove your identity (such as a passport, driving licence or birth certificate), the bank may be able to accept different documents. This could include letters from a refuge, social worker or local authority.  

You can ask for letters to go to an address other than the address the bank has on file for you or ask to receive communication digitally (if you are sure your email account is safe and not accessible by the abuser).  

Many of the main banks and building societies offer basic bank accounts. These are often called ‘fee-free accounts’. They are designed for people who may not be able to open a standard current account. They do not have an overdraft and you will not face charges as you would if you were overdrawn. 

Getting information about your finances  

The abuser may have stopped you from accessing your bank accounts and information about your finances. Your bank can support you to get information about:  

  • assets (such as savings) in your name  
  • debts (such as mortgages, loans and overdrafts) in your name  
  • the payments coming into and going out of your account.  

You may wish to access your credit report for information on debts that are in your name with other financial providers.  

We have information that explains more about how an abuser may be linked to your credit report. This also explains how to make sure that no one can access your address details if you change the address on your credit record.  

Managing credit cards, mortgages and other debts  

If the abuser is a cardholder for a credit card in your name, your bank can support you to remove their access. This will prevent them from spending any more.   

You can speak to your bank about any changes you may wish to make to your mortgage and the options that may be available to you. 

Your bank can support you to access specialist debt advice services for information and advice on how to manage your debts. Many lenders can offer vulnerable customers more flexibility in paying back debts, and may be able to offer support that stops more debt building up.  

If you are not happy with the service you receive 

The banking industry has made strides to improve its service for victim-survivors of economic abuse. However, there are things you can do if your bank does not properly support you.  

1. Make a complaint  

If you are unhappy with the service from your bank or building society, or if you feel they are not sensitive to your situation, you may wish to complain.  

The first step to resolve an issue with your bank is to contact their complaints department. The bank must respond to complaints within eight weeks, and often they try to do so much quicker. Making a complaint will not have a negative effect on your bank account. It may help the bank to provide a better service for you and others in the future.  

You can approach the bank in the way that feels most comfortable for you. However, putting your complaint in writing can be a useful record of the issue and the date the complaint was made.  

You may wish to highlight what the issue is, the impact it has had on you and the outcome you would like.  

2. Report it to the Financial Ombudsman  

If your bank or building society doesn’t resolve your complaint or doesn’t respond within eight weeks, you can report it to the Financial Ombudsman Service. The Financial Ombudsman Service is free and independent. Its role is to settle disputes between consumers and companies. They have the legal power to put things right if they support your complaint. You can make a complaint online.  

Last updated March 2022

Further support 

If you are experiencing economic abuse, you are not alone. We have more information that can support you to take steps towards safety and begin to regain control of your finances.

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