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Commonwealth Bank drops Dollarmites

After long campaign by CHOICE, pin is finally pulled on 'shonky' school banking program.

dollarmite accounts cancelled
Last updated: 25 October 2021

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia's controversial school-banking program Dollarmites has been cancelled around Australia.

The move comes after a series of bans from state governments. New South Wales announced last week that Dollarmites was no longer welcome at schools in that state, taking the lead from Queensland, Victoria and ACT governments.

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

Dollarmites a cash cow for CommBank 

Commonwealth Bank announced on Sunday it would be ending the 90-year-old program nationally from the end of 2021.

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

An independent analyst estimated the value of the program to the bank at $10 billion

In a message on its Facebook page on Sunday announcing the end of the program, CommBank described the end of Dollarmites as a 'sad day'.

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

Dollarmites has been responsible for decades of relentless promoting of their financial products to young and impressionable minds. 

CHOICE celebrates end of long campaign

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

In our submission to a 2019 ASIC inquiry into the school banking program, we told the inquiry how the program promoted credit card products to kids. 

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

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

Dollarmites was a very effective marketing program

Alan Kirkland, CHOICE CEO

"The reality is that Dollarmites was a very effective marketing program, signing up primary school aged-children to a life-long relationship with the Commonwealth Bank," says CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland. 

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

"One of the most important lessons that children need to learn about banking is to shop around for the best deal. Letting the Commonwealth Bank sign up children as customers at a very young age is the very opposite of that."

ASIC found no evidence of any positive impact on financial literacy

Alan Kirkland, CHOICE CEO

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

"With the end of Dollarmites, we can feel confident that students will get lessons in financial literacy instead of bank loyalty," Kirkland says.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.