A bank account, also called a transaction account, is the main way that Australians receive payments, withdraw cash and make purchases.

Just about everyone in Australia, from children to adults to businesses, has a bank account with a financial institution, credit union or building society.

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Learn more about bank accounts

What is a bank account?

A bank account, also known as a transaction 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 (including paywave)
  • Digital wallet (e.g. Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay)
  • ATMs
  • Direct debit
  • Bpay
  • Branch access
  • Cheques

Are there different types of bank accounts?

The main deposit accounts you can open in Australia include:

  • Transaction accounts. Your classic banking account. A transaction account allows you easy access to funds deposited by yourself or others via online banking, mobile banking or Mastercard or Visa debit cards. Money can be withdrawn via ATM or in branch. 
  • Savings accounts. A savings account is a bank account that allows you to accrue interest on your regular deposits. They may come with bonus interest rates that can only be earned from meeting conditions, such as not making withdrawals, or for an introductory period. These accounts are designed to help you meet your savings goals.
  • Term deposit. A term deposit is a type of depositing account in which you lock away your savings at a set interest rate for an agreed upon period of time. They are different to savings accounts, in that once the money is deposited, it's much more difficult to access until the account has reached maturity. This is designed to help you not dip into your funds. 

What's the difference between bank accounts and savings accounts?

Bank accounts are different from savings accounts in that they’re not designed to accumulate money. Instead, this is the account which you use for your everyday banking, while savers can earn interest on the money in their savings account.

Many savings accounts offer a base interest rate and a bonus interest rate. Fulfilling the bonus rate's terms and conditions is often the key to benefiting from a high interest savings account. Sometimes a saver account offers a high introductory rate, where you only earn extra interest on your savings for a limited time.

Another saving option for Australians wanting to earn interest towards their savings goals is a term deposit, where you agree to deposit a sum of money for a pre-set term, and receive a fixed amount of interest on these savings. Generally, the more money you deposit, and the longer the term you choose, the more likely you are to benefit from a high interest rate.

What fees apply to bank accounts?

Fees can differ from one bank account to another, but the main fees you may encounter include: 

  • Monthly account-keeping fees
  • ATM withdrawal fees
  • Phone banking fees
  • EFTPOS fees
  • Internet banking fees
  • Branch fees
  • Paper statement fees
  • Overdraft fees (if you withdraw more than what is available in your account)
  • International transaction fees

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

  • No account-keeping fees
  • Free monthly statements
  • No minimum deposit amounts
  • For more information around which fees a bank account may charge, check out the product disclosure statement (PDS) and T&Cs, generally located on the provider's website.

What are some tips to get the most out of a bank account?

Use a debit card over a credit card

Bank accounts usually come with Mastercard or Visa debit cards, which can be used similarly to a credit card, both online and in-store. When you use a debit card, you’re spending your own money rather than credit. If you don’t want to be hit with interest on your purchases, it may be a good idea to use your debit card instead of your credit card.

Be careful with security

Once someone has your bank account details, they could use it to spend your money. When it comes to your physical cards and online banking, it’s worthwhile changing your codes and passwords often, and avoiding 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, and that there aren’t any charges that weren’t authorised by you. If there is a suspicious transaction, contact your financial institution immediately. 

Keep essential funds in your bank account

Australians sometimes save large amounts of money in their everyday transaction accounts, which can be a mistake. It may be better to keep only the money you need for your everyday banking in your transaction account, and to move the rest to a savings account, where you can earn interest at a higher interest rate. You generally 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 apps or websites for mobile banking or internet banking. These online banking platforms allow savers to view their balance, pay bills or transfer money on the go.

What are the pros and cons of having multiple bank accounts?

Pros

  • Different accounts for different purposes - If you like to be organised, then you may prefer using different bank accounts for different purposes. For example, you could have one bank account for day-to-day expenses (such as petrol and food), another account for rent or mortgage repayments, and a third account for your child’s pocket money. For some people, this level of organisation could be one 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, such as a lower introductory fee, waived account-keeping fees, or even a fee free deal. Opening up more than one bank account could increase these benefits. Banks also sometimes offer package deals. For example, the bank could offer you perks if you take out multiple banking products (including a bank account). It’s important to do your research on any financial product before signing up and make sure you’re signing up to one that best suits your financial situation, not the one with the most attractive perks.

Cons

  • Multiple bank accounts can just be plain confusing – If you’re not overly organised or lose track of things easily, then multiple bank accounts might not be for you. Constantly moving and sorting funds can be complicated and time-consuming. If you prefer a more hands-off approach to your money, then one bank account may be the way to go.
  • You can be hit with multiple fees – Bank accounts often come with a mixed bag of fees, from monthly account fees and overdraft fees to ATM withdrawal fees. So, having multiple bank accounts could increase your risk of paying more fees. If you’re opening multiple accounts to take advantage of features and benefits, then be aware that once you add up the fees across multiple bank accounts, the benefits may not be worth it in the end.

Which bank account is the best?

Bank accounts are offered by basically every bank, credit union and building society in Australia, from ANZ to Citibank, NAB, HSBC, Westpac, Bankwest, Commonwealth Bank, ING, Suncorp and UBank, to name just a few. 

Many everyday banking accounts from different institutions are fairly similar to one another, though a few offer special features and benefits that could benefit certain Australians, depending on their financial situation.

There is no single “best” bank account for everyone, so always do your research to make sure you’re getting one that suits your individual needs.

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Frequently asked questions

Can you open another account at the same bank?

Yes, you can open another account at the same bank if you already have an account there, but some banks place a limit on how many specific accounts you can open.

Generally, though, it is possible to have more than one everyday account, one personal account and one joint account, or have different types of accounts – such as a transaction account and a savings account.

Keep in mind that some bank accounts come with fees, so you could be charged twice for having two types of the same account at the same bank.

Also, if you have more than one high-interest transaction account at the same bank, only one account will be able to earn the highest rate of interest.

Can you find your bank account number online?

If your bank offers online services, you should be able to find your bank account number online by logging into your account on your bank’s website and checking your details there.

Keep in mind that each type of account you have with a bank comes with a unique account number. This means if you have a bank account as well as a savings account, for example, your bank account number and your savings account number will be different.

If you don’t have access to your bank account online or can’t login, you should be able to find your account number on a mailed bank statement, if you have one.

Alternatively, you can call your bank’s customer service number or visit a branch to retrieve your account number.

How do I close a bank account?

Closing a bank account is one of those tasks that’s easy to put in the too-hard basket. There are quite a few steps involved, some which may require you to hang on the phone for a while.  

Here’s a handy checklist of items to tick off, so the job gets done quicker. If you don’t do your banking online, the following steps can also be done at a branch.   

  • Cancel any scheduled or recurring payments
  • Update your direct debit details (such as loan repayments) with creditors
  • Export your payee address book (to keep a record of saved third-party bank account details)
  • Transfer the balance of your account (to the new bank account)
  • Close your account online, or by calling the bank or visiting a branch

Can you deposit money into somebody else's bank account?

One of the easiest banking tasks in the world is depositing money. You can even deposit money into someone else’s bank account if you wish.

The basic information you need to deposit money into a third-party bank account is:

  • Payee’s name
  • Bank, building society or credit union (though this isn’t necessary)
  • BSB (or bank code, which is the branch identifier)
  • Account number

Including the name of the financial institution isn’t necessary – particularly with online banking – because the BSB will identify this for you.

A handy tip is to record yourself (or add a personal message) in the transaction description or reference. This will show up on the recipients account, letting them know who’s paid them the money.

Can I close my bank account over the phone?

In most cases, you can close a personal or business bank account over the phone. In fact, this is the best way to ensure you’ve closed an account properly.

By speaking to a banking representative, you can capture and close out any pending transactions, or interest owing/payable on the account being closed.

In the instance where the account is a joint account, or you have multiple bank accounts you want to close, your bank may send you a form that you need to fill out and return.

Either way, you would be advised over the phone of the steps you need to take. Calling your bank ahead of closing an account is often a smart course of action.

How to transfer money to another bank account

Transferring money to another bank is often called a bank transfer, and it can be done a few different ways.

Customers generally need three pieces of information to transfer money to another bank account. Customers need the account name, BSB and account number of the account they wish to transfer money to.

One way of transferring money to another bank account is in a branch with the help of a staff member; they will often give you a receipt as well as confirmation of the transfer.

Transfers can be also made via internet banking and phone banking.

Some banks also allow customers to make transfers via partnered ATMs, especially if the account is with the same bank.

Can I have a PayPal account without a bank account?

You don’t need a bank account to send or receive money through PayPal. However, you do need a bank account if you want to withdraw money from your PayPal account.

How do you set up a bank account online?

Once you’ve compared bank accounts and found the right one, the process of opening a bank account online is quite simple and can be done in around 10 minutes.

To set up a bank account online, you’ll need to prove your identity and provide an approved form of ID as well as your tax file number (TFN).

If you’re a new customer of the bank, you’ll need to verify your identity and potentially upload documents before you can complete your online application.

Once your ID has been verified and you’ve set up your bank account online, you should receive your bank cards in the mail along with your PIN and any other account details.

How do I close my bank account online?

You can usually easily open a bank account online, but you often can’t close it online.

Many banks and credit unions will only let you close an account if you go into a branch or call them on the phone.

However, some banks will let you request to close the account via your internet banking. Check your financial provider’s website for details.

Just remember: If you still have funds in the bank account, transfer them to another account, or withdraw the cash. Also, if you have any payments like direct debits going in or out of the bank account, these will also stop when you close your account.

Can I open a bank account in another country?

Despite having a bad rap for facilitating tax evasion, it is possible and legal to open a bank account in another country, also known as an ‘offshore account’.

Some people choose to open a bank account in another country to invest overseas, for higher interest-earning potential or to access foreign banking services.

The process for opening an offshore bank account differs depending on the financial institution and country in which you’re opening the account.

Typically, you will need to provide identification such as a passport, a local bank statement and a signed declaration proving the source of the money being used to open your account. Usually, deposits into offshore accounts can be made by international money transfer.

Can foreigners open bank account in Australia?

If you’re migrating, studying or working in Australia, you’ll be pleased to know that you can open an Australian bank account. For the most part, opening a bank account in Australia is a simple process which starts by comparing the types of bank accounts foreigners can open in Australia.

Once you’ve found a bank account that suits your needs, you can start the application process.

When you apply for the account, you’ll need to provide proof of ID which may include your passport, overseas ID or credit card. You may also need to provide a copy of your visa and proof of address in Australia.

Depending on the bank and the type of account you choose, you may be able to apply for the account online or over the phone before you arrive in Australia.

How do you open a bank account in Australia?

Opening a bank account in Australia is usually a straightforward process. Some banks give you the option of opening an account online, while others require you to visit a branch.

Different bank accounts offer different features, so it’s best to compare your options to find one that suits you.

All banks require you to pass an identity check to open a bank account. Australia uses the 100-point identification system, which means you’ll need to show a number of forms of ID that, together, add up to 100 points.

Common ID types include a driver’s licence, passport, Australian visa in a foreign passport, and Australian Medicare card. You’ll find out what types of ID are accepted when you go through the sign-up process online or at a branch.

Once your account is open, you’ll be given or sent a debit card that you can use to make purchases and withdraw money from your account.

How do I open a new bank account?

There are a number of ways to open a new bank account – online, over the phone or in the branch. The trick is to decide what type of bank account you want beforehand.

It might sound like a simple enough task, but there are literally hundreds of bank accounts to choose from. And each offer their own banking features and benefits.

A comparison site like RateCity can help you work out what bank account product matches your needs.

Once you’ve made up your mind what you want, it’s advisable to have the following information ready for the application process.

  • A couple of forms of identification (such as driver’s licence, Medicare card, passport)
  • Tax file number
  • Residential address, contact phone number and email (though email is not essential)

Can I find my bank account number online?

Yes, you can find your bank account number by logging into your online banking and clicking on the relevant account.

How do I open a bank account for a child?

There are few better ways for a child to learn about money management than through savings. And there’s a plethora of bank accounts designed specifically for young people and children.

A bank account for a child can be opened online, over the phone or in a branch in a few easy steps. The minimum age a child can open a bank account for themselves usually ranges between 12 and 14.

If the child is too young to open the account, you can do it for them as their legal parent or guardian. 

To do this, you would need to be over 18, have an Australian residential address and currently reside in Australia (or have proof of residency).

You would also need to provide:

  • Identification for yourself and the child
  • Your tax file number (TFN) or TFN exemption

Depending on the bank account, you might be able to choose what level of access the child has to their bank account (online and via the phone).

Do I need to open a business bank account?

Just because you’re in business doesn’t necessarily mean you need a business bank account. You could be a sole trader not registered for GST, and use your personal bank account for business.

If you do want a business account, there are plenty of benefits attached to business transaction and savings accounts, as well as business term deposits.

There are business bank accounts designed for businesses with a high volume of transactions, and those for start-ups with a small amount of trade. You could also include an EFTPOS service with your account.

Some business bank accounts charge for the number of transactions per month, while others offer a pay-as-you-go fee structure, where you only pay fees for transactions you make.

It’s up to you whether your priority is mainly transactions, or earning the maximum amount of interest on your principal. There’s a business banking solution for you if you need one.

How do you delete your bank account from PayPal?

Deleting your bank account from PayPal is a simple three-step process:

  • Go to your Wallet
  • Choose the account you’d like to delete
  • Click ‘Remove bank account’

Do you need a bank account to sell on eBay?

You don’t need a bank account to sell on eBay. But if you don’t have a bank account, you must provide either a credit card or debit card.

Can I open bank accounts for my children?

A common question for new parents is, ‘Can I open a bank account for my child?’

The short answer is yes – as a parent you can open a bank account for your child.

Once you’ve compared your options and found a bank account that suits your needs, the process is relatively simple.

As the bank account is for your child, you’ll need to provide some documentation such as proof of ID, including your tax file number.

You will also need a copy of your child’s birth certificate, and in some cases you may also need to sign a guarantee of indemnity.

Depending on the bank and whether you’re an existing customer, you may be able to open a bank account for your child online. However, you may still need to go into a branch to prove your identity.

How do you transfer money from PayPal to a bank account?

Transferring money from PayPal to an Australian bank account is simple. Just follow these three steps:

  • Go to your Wallet
  • Click ‘Transfer Money’
  • Follow the instructions

The money will take three to seven business days to reach your bank account.

Once you’ve made the transfer request, it can’t be withdrawn.