Update (June 8 and 7:00 am UTC): This article has been updated to include comment from a CBA spokesperson.
Commonwealth Bank (CBA), the largest bank in Australia, has said it will decline or temporarily hold certain payments to cryptocurrency exchanges, citing the risk of scammers.
The move comes amid two major global exchanges facing a lawsuit from the United States securities regulator and is just a few weeks after another major Australian bank, Westpac, banned customers from transacting with crypto exchange Binance.
On June 8, CBA said it would decline or put a 24-hour hold on “certain payments to cryptocurrency exchanges” as a part of “new measures to help protect customers from scam risks associated with making certain payments to cryptocurrency exchanges,”
A CBA spokesperson told Pandoraland that, for now, it was not providing further information publicly or to customers on what payment types it would block or hold, citing the risk of scammers circumventing the changes.
Reporting from @jessicasier @FinancialReview that @CommBank have banned AUD transfers to “high-risk” crypto exchanges & limited transactions with others to $10k per month, with a 24 hr delay. $700k per day leaves CBA as scammed money heading to crypto. Banks & the crypto industry…
— Caroline Bowler (@CaroBowler) June 8, 2023
In its statement, the bank added that a $10,000 Australian dollar ($6,650) per month limit on customers sending funds to crypto exchanges to purchase cryptocurrencies would be introduced “in the coming months.”
“From today, CBA will decline or hold for 24 hours certain payments to cryptocurrency exchanges. In coming months the Bank will also introduce $10,000 limits in a calendar month where the Bank can identify the customer payments are to exchanges for cryptocurrency purchases,” it said.
The general manager of CBA’s fraud management services, James Roberts, claimed that “scammers globally are capitalizing” on the interest in crypto, pretending to be “legitimate investment opportunities or diverting funds into cryptocurrency exchanges.”
The bank said the measure would be “subject to ongoing review,” and it would monitor the impact of the measures.
It’s a major about-turn for the bank which — just over a year and a half ago in November 2021 — was set to launch crypto trading services for the millions of users of its CommBank app.
The bank’s CEO, Matt Comyn, said at the time it sees “risks in participating, but we see bigger risks in not participating” and added, “the sector and the technology [isn’t] going away anytime soon.”
As recently as May 2022, Comyn was wrangling with regulators over the launch of the product. The country’s financial regulators, however, won out and a pilot for the crypto-trading product was put on ice.