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Bank Accounts

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A bank account – also called a transaction account – is the main way people receive payments, enjoy basic benefits, withdraw cash and pay bills.

From children to adults to businesses, just about everyone has a bank account with a financial institution, credit union or building society. 

Bank accounts – or transaction accounts – are different from savings accounts, in that they’re not designed to accumulate money. Instead, they’re more like spending accounts.

What is a bank account?

A bank account is an everyday account used to manage your finances. Everything from paying bills to depositing your income to withdrawing cash is managed through a bank account. Bank accounts allow you to make payments in a number of ways:

  • Online shopping
  • Electronic payments
  • Digital wallet (e.g. Google Wallet, Samsung Pay, Apple Pay)
  • ATMs
  • Direct debit
  • Bpay
  • Branch access
  • Cheques

What fees apply to bank accounts?

Fees can differ from one bank account to another, but the main ones you may incur are: 

  • Monthly account-keeping fees
  • ATM fees (for your bank's ATMs and even more for using another bank's ATMs)
  • Phone banking fees
  • EFTPOS fees
  • Internet banking fees
  • Branch fees
  • Paper statement fees
  • Overdraft fees (if you withdraw more than is in your account)

Yes, this sounds like a lot of fees, but the good news is that most banks offer a basic bank account that has:

  • No account-keeping fees
  • Free monthly statements
  • No minimum deposit amounts
  • No overdraft fees

What are some tips for using a bank account?

Use a debit card over a credit card: Bank accounts usually come with debit cards, which can usually be used the same way as a credit card – both online and in-store. It’s generally a good idea to use your debit card instead of your credit card, as you’re making a purchase using your own money. Therefore, you won’t incur interest charges on the purchase.

Be stringent with security: It’s easy to become complacent with your PIN number, bank account codes or card details – but fraudsters are, unfortunately, quite common. Once someone has your bank account details, you can be hit with an unauthorised transaction. It’s a good idea to change your codes and passwords often, and avoid using predictable passwords or PINs (like your name or date of birth). Always check your bank statements to make sure you’ve been charged correctly for things, and there aren’t any charges on there that weren’t authorised by you. If there is a suspicious transaction, always contact your financial institution immediately.

Keep essential funds in your bank account: People sometimes keep large amounts of money in their bank account, which can be a mistake. It’s usually better to keep only required funds in your bank account and move larger amounts to a savings account, where they can earn interest. Often, you don’t need to access large amounts day-to-day, so always budget and designate funds to where you think they best belong.

Check out online and mobile platforms: Most banks, credit unions or building societies have user-friendly digital platforms for mobile banking or internet banking. These platforms make managing your bank account much simpler – even if you’re out and about. Everything from paying bills to moving around money can be done through these platforms.

What’s the difference between a bank account and a savings account?

A bank account is generally a traditional everyday account. It’s a primary way to receive your income, make payments and pay bills. Funds in your bank account can be accessed via a debit card (or a credit card), and certain fees apply. You also earn little to no interest on any money stored in your bank account.

A savings account is an account made for storing ‘savings’ or larger sums of money. The money you deposit in a savings account accrues interest, making it a safe and simple way to save for a goal, such as a holiday, a car, a wedding or renovations.

Unlike bank or transaction accounts, savings accounts typically carry withdrawal fees (to deter you from withdrawing) and a minimum monthly deposit requirement to earn bonus interest (to encourage good saving behaviour). Savings accounts typically aren’t linked to debit or credit cards, as they’re not designed for day-to-day expenses.

What are the pros of having multiple bank accounts?

Different accounts for different purposes: If you love to sort and organise (and you have a knack for it) then you may prefer having different accounts for different purposes. For example, one account is for day-to-day expenses (such as petrol and food); another bank account is for rent money or your mortgage repayments; another bank account is where you store your child’s pocket money. For some people, this level of organisation is a great way to budget effectively.

Access special features and bonuses: Often, a bank, credit union or building society will offer special rewards, bonuses or benefits for opening a bank account. It could be a low introductory fee, waived account-keeping fees, a linked credit card or other offer, but opening up more than one bank account could increase your ability to enjoy these benefits. Banks also sometimes offer package deals. For example, take out multiple banking products (including a bank account) to unlock an exclusive reward or offer.

What are cons of having multiple bank accounts?

Multiple bank account can just be plain confusing: If you’re not overly organised or lose track of things easily, then multiple bank accounts could be more of a hindrance than a help. Dividing wealth here, there and everywhere could very easily leave you scratching your head saying, “Where has my money gone?” Further, constantly moving and sorting funds can be complicated and time-consuming. Prefer more of a hands-off approach to your bank funds? Then one bank account is probably the way to go.

You can be hit with multiple fees: Bank accounts often come with a mixed bag of fees: account-keeping fees, overdraft fees, ATM fees and so on. Therefore, having multiple bank accounts increases your risk of paying more fees. If you’re opening multiple accounts to take advantage of features and benefits, then be aware that banks sometimes charge fees (like an annual fee) to subsidise the benefit. If you’re paying this fee across multiple accounts, the benefits may not be worth it in the end.

You may not get all the bonuses: If you’re not reading the terms and conditions that apply for each feature or benefit, then you may overlook the rule of ‘one per customer’. Therefore, if you open up a second or third bank account with the same institution, you may not be eligible to enjoy the offer or benefit again.  

Which bank account is the best?

Bank accounts are offered by basically every bank, credit union and building society – and they’re largely the same across the board.

Always speak to a professional or do your research to make sure you’re getting a bank account that suits your individual needs.