CHOICE membership

Dollarmites and banking in schools

After all the sordid Banking Revelations at last a long overdue review of School Banking…Hurrah now we can only hope the ASIC outcome is a truly worthwhile one rather than some of the previous less than outstanding outcomes.

Perhaps the Dollarmite Shonky was a wake up call for ASIC that people do realise the problems and are not blinded by the poor policing.


CBA’s Dollarmites isn’t the only bank marketing targeted at children. Check out these Westpac children’s books:

What’s everyone’s thoughts on these?


I have no issue with these are it would be at the discretion of the parents to whether their children have these books. If they were given to teachers/education system to hand out in class, then there would be an issue.

With the Dollarmite program, the information (or is that marketing material/advertising) is provided by the school to children without the consent of the parents. Parents are removed from the decision making process and pester power and peer group pressure and result in parents involuntarily subscribing children to a Dollarmite account.

At our local school, some parents have mentioned that they have joined the Dollarmite program as they believed it was in the children’s interests as it was recommended by the school/education department (conflict of interest/vested interests).

The Westpac Books are like the McDonald (kid unmeals) toys or the plastic trinkets by Coles. Parents have a choice to take their children to or accept the marketing materials. Dollarmites, is different matter.


I think there is a world of difference whereby one is unabashedly selling its products and services in a closed environment whilst the other is featuring a seriously important public service they sponsor, as well as soliciting donations for same if one goes to the rescuehelicopter website. As @phb wrote, one can take or leave the helicopter service unlike what is presented in a school.

Not having read the books on offer I cannot make an informed opinion on them, but if they presumably reinforce what the helicopter service is about, not a worry. And I have never begrudged the sponsor of a public service for getting their mention. (Helicopters are quite expensive to own and operate so good on any business for ‘doing it.’)


After a Royal Commission, countless stories of the Commonwealth Bank robbing people alive or dead and clear evidence they bribe schools to let them in, People STILL defend Dollarmites. Why do we think that is?

There are a few possibilities. Firstly a lot of people who defend it seem to have participated themselves. Have they themselves been sold the ‘Commonwealth Bank is your friend’ message? Or is it just due to having poor financial literacy themselves?

Personally my thoughts is that it’s because people still believe ‘marketing doesn’t work on me.’ (And by extension my kids). People don’t see an issue with 18 year olds getting advertised credit cards because they simply believe those ads don’t work.


Your theories make sense to me and I agree there are multiple possibilities and factors at play. It’s a pervasive program that reaches people when are they very young, via authority figures (teachers and parents) - is it any wonder that people feel a sense of nostalgia and identity when discussing this product?

The effect on competition and consumer behaviour is well documented, and we’ve done our best to show that this is a black mark on our financial and a perversion of our education system. Logically, the cost of a plastic yellow money box should not pay for a lifetime of financial servitude to a brand not necessarily offering the best deal, but people are frequently operating on another basis.

If it helps, when we first raised the alarm about the effect of the Dollarmites program on our system and started making logical assumption about letting any business have such a strong hand on education, we received a flood of criticism and negative comments. However, with broad efforts to educate, today the sentiment overall seems very different to me. Hopefully, this means change is on the way.


I think one of the main ones is convenience. The bank operating at the school saves parents going to a branch to deposit the money box or do other transactions.

This can be easily overcome if one uses online banking…the parent’s can in effect be the banker and transfer money from their account to their child’s account online…with the parents keeping the money for their use after money is deposited. This is what we do and we also explain how the baking system works and how to do online banking at the same time.

Our main bank, Suncorp, has tried fo ‘sell’ us a child’s account which pays next to no interest (the reason I suspect is there are tax penalties for higher amounts of interest children earn). We have shopped around and use a higher interest savings account instead (in our name to avoid the potential tax penalties in the future). This also allows one’s child to see money accumulate and also how compound interest over time works.

Parents should be taking a more active role in their own and their children’s financial affairs, just like previous generations did.

Stepping back, like that which often occurs today, allows the likes of the Commonweslth Bank to fill the void. This could another reason why dolomites is defended by some parents as they wish to pass the responsibility onto someone else.


I also think there is/was some belief that as it was once owned by the Commonwealth it somehow is benign in it’s behaviour and still is somehow constrained/controlled by that Commonwealth past. This is patently false as the RC showed but those long held beliefs are deeply ingrained in many. We can see similar doggedly held belief systems in play in many areas of people’s lives and world events…whether to vaccinate or not is a clear example as is Climate Change or Friday the 13th or Black Cats…I am simply pointing out there are deeply held beliefs that contrary to evidence are still held by otherwise very sensible people.

I think that once the evidence is clear then the way forward is to apply the correct processes/procedures. Dollarmites obviously is not a good practice in this now corporatised process and it should be removed as a practice that is supported by Schools. Financial literacy if not taught by parents then should be taught in classes but not by banks/businesses that have vested interests in creating users of their particular products.


I think nostalgia is a good point. Nostalgia is almost universally a memory of innocence. So simply remembering a childhood with Dollarmites can link it back to the innocence we associate with childhood, even though the Commonwealth Bank is anything but.

Now I think about it a lot of companies rely on similar strategies. Getting your Happy Meal at McDonalds, your free fruit at Woolworths etc. So when you think back you remember them in a more positive light than you should


In my opinion financial management could be a more practical tool for everyday life to be taught in Schools.
It would not be too hard to teach everyday monetary situations in a maths class. I can name a few subjects that I took at school that have been very little use in everyday life.


I might be a little old fashioned but think it is a parents role possibly more than the education system (which may give advice which goes against the grain of what parents think).

As a parent, we actively involve our child in financial management of the household including reading and understanding bills, banking, budgeting, costs of products, replacing verses repair, credit verses debit, borrowing verses cash in hand etc. My parents/grandparents did the same for their own children. If a child should see their own parents as role models, then they are more likely to learn more about financial management, its challenges and pressures.

The problem is possibly we have a generation who now have young children, and where their own parents did not afford the time for the children’s benefit… and now think schools should teach children everything to prepare them for their life ahead. Learning about many of lifes experiences comes from doing it rather than looking at a screen/whiteboard.

Maybe education tools could be developed for parents…to assist in engaging with the child’s financial future.


I am all for including basic life skills in the realm of education provided by schools. Regardless of whether a parent is conservative or lose with their finances, there are basics everyone should know, but obviously many do not for reasons @phb mentioned.

What is a cheque? What is a transaction account? What is a savings account? What are the ways to do electronic payments? What is the difference between simple and compound interest? What is a dividend? What does deeming mean? How do debit and credit cards differ? and on its goes.

What are types of investments (property, shares, or for some, art, jewellery, wine, collectors items)?

It is not advice I advocate, it is educating the options (no pun) and alternatives.


Sorry I don’t agree with your sentiment tell me are you involved with teaching, that would explain a lot.

I presume your reply was to myself. I taught for 3 years in the early 1970’s and then went into ICT for the next 40.

Sorry if I am misreading your comment, but that suggests you don’t respect teachers, or that it explains my position. Not sure which.


I do respect teachers but it does not seem as though you are prepared to give the idea any consideration. Schoolchildren are more lightly to listen to their teacher and might be receptive at school age to monetary instruction.

For some kids school might be the place they learn the most. For others they may really struggle to retain anything from school. We should be addressing it on both fronts to cater for both imo.


I guess Commbank just kept going on school stuff after it was privatised in 1996. Prior to that it was government owned. As a kid I had a commonwealth bank bankbook which went with me to school along with 2 shillings to go in it, every week. It started when I was 6, and finished when I left school at 17. The savings I had there enabled me to buy the 2 pair of shoes I needed for nursing (Horrible Halls) and a red bolero and cape. The rest was supplied. My parents thought I was making a terrible mistake becoming a nurse and so refused to pay for the needed items. There was just enough left over for the purchase of my first guitar.

I don’t think commbank taught me anything, but it was enforced saving. Probably more down to Mum who was a financial whiz. I learned a lot from her but never put it into practice.

Early morning and I am rambling again.


How so that I am ‘not prepared…’? I presented my opinion, as have you.

I presume you think that is bad. We might well vigorously disagree, noting I did not endorse financial advice, only understanding of what the system offers.


Can you find them all? These are just some of the allegations levelled at the Commonwealth Bank that make you wonder what lessons they’re really teaching our kids. There’s still little evidence that programs like Dollarmites even improve kids’ long-term savings behaviour.

Our schools should be a place of learning, not for big banks to push financial products on unsuspecting kids. Make your voice heard now.



I completed the name, rank & serial # details as per the other Choice submissions but it would not complete until I added my two bob’s worth so I added some.

"These banking programs are nothing more than an attempt to brainwash vulnerable young children.

They would be better off learning about Ned Kelly, Ben Hall, Captain Moonlight & the other bushrangers than being influenceded by their modern day counterparts."