Bank changes urged to stop financial abuse

Banks have been urged to implement increased protections on joint accounts in a bid to crack down on financial abuse.

A new report by the Centre for Women's Economic Safety has called on the banks to make the changes so it is more difficult for products such as joint accounts, credit cards and mortgages to be used as a coercive control measure.

The report said measures such as setting up joint accounts with separate passwords and logins were a way to ensure the accounts could not be used as a form of abuse towards women should relationships break down.

The centre's chief executive Rebecca Glenn said the changes would help stop joint financial products from being weaponised.

"Currently, banking products are designed in a way that assumes all relationships are healthy and equal but the reality is that financial abuse is rife in Australia," she said.

"Banking products can and should be re-designed so that couples who set up joint accounts have protections in place from the beginning."

The report said financial products were able to be used as a form of abuse towards women, such as withdrawing all funds from a joint account, instant receipts being used to stalk victims or abusive messages being sent through payment descriptions.

According to the report, it's estimated mothers who separate from violent partners have a 34 per cent drop in their income.

Financial Counselling Australia chief executive Fiona Guthrie said women were twice as likely to experience financial abuse than men.

"Financial coercion can stop women from leaving their abusive partner. It strips them of their financial autonomy and can wreck their credit score and leave them mired in debt," she said.

"It's essential that banks have safeguards in place to protect people against economic abuse and the crippling impact it has on their health and wellbeing, and that of their children."

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth welcomed the report and called on banks to improve measures to prevent financial coercion.

"Women should not have to choose between their financial security or their safety," she said.

"Perpetrators should not be enabled by systems that exacerbate their abuse."

The report was released ahead of International Economic Abuse Awareness Day on Saturday.