Australia bushfires: Kiwi banks waive international transfer fee to assist donations

Several banks have confirmed that they have waived the international money transfer (IMT) fee to support donations to people affected by the Australia bushfires.

Kiwis wanting to pitch in are effectively now able to contribute more, with ANZ, Kiwibank and ASB waiving the standard fee that applies to payments made to Australian bank accounts via internet banking, or payments made at the branch.    

Antonia Watson, CEO of ANZ, said that the waiver of the NZ$9 fee will apply to payments made from a New Zealand bank account to an Australian bank account via ANZ Internet Banking or ANZ goMoney.

"The IMT fee-free period will initially last until 20 January 2020, but may be extended if necessary," Watson confirmed.

Using internet banking, Kiwibank customers are also able to send funds from their NZ account to an Australian account fee-free through to 20 January, while ASB has confirmed the fee will be waived for its customers wanting to make a donation in branch.

An AU$1m (NZ$1.04m) bushfire relief package set up by ANZ Australia will provide some assistance for customers and communities affected by the fires.

"The package complements ANZ’s existing assistance, which includes $300,000 to volunteer fire services across New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia and $500,000 to support local community services," Watson said.

Since the bushfires took hold in late 2019, numerous celebrities have gifted funds and a myriad of funding campaigns have kicked in.

Among those getting behind relief efforts were singer-songwriter Sir Elton John, who announced his intention to pledge $1m in January, Australian billionaires Andrew and Nicola Forrest, who pledged NZ$72m and Australia-raised Nicole Kidman, who confirmed via Twitter that she and husband Keith Urban had donated a hefty sum to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.

"Our family's support, thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the fires all over Australia," the actress said.

"We are donating $500,000 to the Rural Fire Services who are all doing and giving so much right now."

Humanitarian and aid agency Red Cross said that since opening an Australia bushfire relief fund on 1 July 2019,  by 12 January, it had raised over AU$60m (NZ$62.4m).

A Red Cross spokesperson confirmed that no fees are charged on donations received locally within Australia, and from overseas.  Since July 2019, over 1900 volunteers and staff have responded to over 30 emergencies and supported over 20,000 people.

"We’re using $15m to help people meet immediate needs - this includes initial cash grants of AU$5000 for everyone across Australia who has lost their home to bushfires since July 2019. 

"The reality is, this situation will continue for months, compounded by drought and extreme heat. 

"How we respond and the grants provided will be informed by the needs as they arise."

Kiwi crowdfunding website Givealittle confirmed that as it is only able to pay funds to New Zealand bank accounts, transfer fees aren't applied, while fundraising platform GoFundMe said that donations made to various bushfire relief efforts are fee-free.

"GoFundMe does not have a platform fee, nor do we charge foreign exchange fees. 

"We always encourage donors to check with their own banks to ensure they won’t be charged a fee by their bank for making an international donation, a spokesperson said.

As funds continue to be pledged to assist firefighters, provide emergency assistance, rebuild homes and preserve and treat wildlife, Kiwis who want to pitch in may now be able to make a fee-free donation, meaning their money will go further to helping those in need.