Commonwealth Bank abandons Dollarmites program

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The Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s controversial school banking program, Dollarmites, has been canceled across Australia.

The move comes after a series of bans imposed by state governments. New South Wales announced last week that Dollarmites were no longer welcome in schools in that state, taking the example of the governments of Queensland, Victoria and ACT.

The state bans followed a long CHOICE campaign on the issue which included a Shonky Prize and a meeting with state education ministers, asking them to drop the program.

Dollarmites a cash cow for CommBank

The Commonwealth Bank announced on Sunday that it would end the 90-year nationwide program from the end of 2021.

The bank may have touted it as a financial literacy program to teach kids how to save, but promoting the bank to kids was a cash cow. In 2018, an independent analyst estimated the value of the program to the bank at $ 10 billion.

Independent analyst estimated the program’s value to the bank at $ 10 billion

In a post on its Facebook page on Sunday announcing the end of the program, CommBank called the end of Dollarmites a “sad day.”

But here at CHOICE, we think it’s a day worth celebrating.

Dollarmites has been responsible for decades for the relentless promotion of its financial products to young and impressionable minds.

CHOICE celebrates the end of a long campaign

In 2018, CHOICE awarded the Commonwealth Bank a Shonky Award for targeting financial products to children through the Dollarmites program.

In our submission to a 2019 ASIC School Banking Program survey, we explained to the survey how the program promotes credit card products to children.

More than 600 CHOICE supporters, including teachers, principals, concerned parents and grandparents, and former Commonwealth Bank employees drafted a submission to the ASIC inquiry.

Victoria was the first state to ban the program in 2020, with Queensland and ACT following suit later.

Dollarmites was a very effective marketing program

Alan Kirkland, CEO of CHOIX

“The reality is that Dollarmites was a very effective marketing program, putting school-aged children in a lifelong relationship with the Commonwealth Bank,” said CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland.

“When the business regulator, ASIC, reviewed programs like Dollarmites in 2020, it found no evidence of a positive impact on financial literacy. Instead, it found that they used sophisticated marketing techniques to target vulnerable consumers.

“One of the most important lessons children need to learn about banking is to look for the best deal. Letting the Commonwealth Bank register children as customers at a very young age is the opposite of that.”

ASIC found no evidence of a positive impact on financial literacy

Alan Kirkland, CEO of CHOIX

The 2017 CHOICE study found that 46% of people got their first bank account with the Commonwealth Bank and a third of people still had that account as adults.

“With the end of Dollarmites, we can be sure that students will get lessons in financial literacy rather than bank loyalty,” Kirkland said.


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