Australian bank Westpac has taken the decision to charge higher interest rates on payments made through its credit cards. Customers will now have to pay more interest on what Westpac calls “near-cash” payments, which include transactions drawn in favor of online gambling accounts.
Westpac will charge 22.95% interest on cash advances
All payments that were used to purchase cryptocurrency or payments made to online gaming accounts will now fall under cash advances. A Westpac spokesperson claimed that most credit card transactions are used to pay online gambling companies.
Westpac currently charges an interest rate of 22.95% on cash advances made through its Hotpoints MasterCard.
Unless a standard MasterCard cardholder at Westpac pays off their monthly balance by the payment due date, other regular purchases would incur an interest rate of 20.95%.
PGF spokesperson calls for stricter regulation
Westpac’s decision to raise interest rates on cash advances appears to be inspired by the UK Gambling Commission’s ban on credit card payments made to gambling companies.
The Health Promotion Agency has reported online gambling to be a popular activity, stating that more than half a million people aged 15 or over have taken part in the activity. Indeed, with so many operators, it’s no surprise that bettors search for new casino bonuses daily, as advertised on reputable sites such as industry-specialized NZCasinoClub.
According to the commission, the ban was imposed after extensive research found that a significant number of addicted gamblers were using credit cards to pay for their punting gambling obsession.
The New Zealand-based Problem Gambling Foundation has called for a tough crackdown on credit card payments to gambling companies following what Britain has done, as well as a planned review gambling laws in New Zealand.
Andrée Froude, the spokesperson for the PGF, felt that credit cards encourage problem gamblers to sink deeper into the game when they run out of money. Froude supports a UK-style ban in New Zealand and sees it as a much-needed step in tackling problem gambling in the country.
New Zealand’s Department of Home Affairs will release the results of the review
Froude explained that New Zealand’s Gambling Act had caused huge changes in online gambling, since it was enacted in 2003. The law had an impact on the way Kiwis are engaged in online gambling in New Zealand as well as with overseas gambling companies.
According to Froude, the results of a review of online gambling in New Zealand conducted by the Department of Home Affairs are expected to be published soon. She was also eagerly awaiting regulatory alternatives to limit the extent of online gambling.
The PGF spokeswoman said more banks like Westpac should adopt tougher regulatory policies to help tackle problem gambling and help vulnerable drug users protect themselves from another downward spiral.
Froude calls for measures like Kiwibank’s VGBs
Regarding Westpac’s recent decision, Froude believes it could be easily circumvented as players would use debit cards to avoid paying higher interest on their transactions.
To control the increase in problem gambling incidents, Kiwibank had allowed players to put voluntary gambling blocks on their cards in April 2021. VGBs would act as a deterrent to large loans that players could use to fuel their obsession.
According to Kiwibank’s sustainability report, more than 127 customers had used voluntary blocking and avoided an annual gambling spend of around $13,000 on average. Impressed by Kiwibank’s initiative, Froude had urged other banks to do the same.
Westpac, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank have all offered similar VGBs to Kiwibank, but their New Zealand subsidiaries such as Westpac New Zealand ASB Bank and Bank of New Zealand have taken no such action. .
Froude was in favor of a measure like the VGBs because she believes the tool can be an effective measure to isolate problem gamblers from gambling addiction. In her words, she would favor a massive encouragement for banks to take a step to such a tool.
Increased interest in making the customer experience consistent
According to Westpac, the increase in interest rates was intended to make the experience more consistent for their customers. Other cash advance transactions would also include sending money overseas and payments made on stock investment platforms such as Sharesies.
According to Sharesies co-CEO Leighton Roberts, some investors using the platform top up their accounts via credit card payments.
Kiwibank’s terms and conditions further stated that the purchase of gaming tokens or foreign cash constituted cash-like transactions.
The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited had its own definition of cash-like transactions. The purchase of gift cards, travelers checks, foreign cash, wire money orders, money transfers and reloading of gambling accounts all fall under this definition.