More than 70 complaints about how banks deal with the accounts of dead customers have been made to the Banking Ombudsman this year.
The figure was revealed to the Herald after several widows said joint credit cards and accounts they shared with their husbands were cut off without warning after they died, leaving some women in tears.
ANZ, ASB and Westpac have all apologised for providing poor service to the women.
Grieving pensioner Gabrielle O'Callaghan lost access to her money after Westpac Bank stripped her of her credit card and closed an account following her husband's death.
Westpac Bank apologised and said it "highlighted a gap in the way that we handle our deceased estates".
Four other widows spoke to the Herald about the difficulty they had setting up their own credit card after their joint cards were cancelled.
"It's a really difficult and stressful time when people are dealing with bereavement and hearing these stories is very concerning," said Banking Ombudsman Nicola Sladden.
"We would all want it to be easier for people in these circumstances."
Dead customer estates are a challenging issue, said Sladden, and she urges anyone to contact the Ombudsman to be guided through the process or contact the right person at their bank.
"There's no doubt when a person is going through a stressful experience they need extra support. The last thing they need is to come across these barriers and challenges," she told the Herald.
"We want to try and help and support people through what is already a stressful time."
The Ombudsman has received complaints about banks freezing accounts when a person dies, Sladden said, which can be difficult when a partner is trying to make arrangements for the funeral of their loved one.
Often complaints are made by family members who cannot access information about the person's estate after their death, Sladden said.
It's an emerging trend that Sladden wants banks to address.
"Banks need to treat their customers fairly and that includes supporting customers – when their loved ones have passed away - navigate what is an undoubtedly stressful time."