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Learn more about bank accounts

A bank account, also known as a transaction account, is an everyday type of bank account that is usually used to pay for day-to-day expenses such as bills and groceries. Many people choose to have their salary deposited into a bank account.

When you do a bank accounts comparison, you need to know that most of these accounts earn little or no interest, so it’s common to have a linked savings account with a higher interest rate where you deposit longer-term savings.

What are the features of a transaction account?

Although transaction accounts differ depending on the account and the financial institution, there are some typical features, such as:

  • A debit card – Normally, everyday accounts come with a card that you can use to make purchases, withdraw money at ATMs and shop with online. These are usually either MasterCard or Visa cards, and can be used with PayPass or PayWave to make tap-and-go purchases under $100.
  • Little or no interest – Unlike savings accounts, transaction accounts usually don’t earn interest on your balance.
  • Free withdrawals and transfers – Because bank accounts are intended for everyday use, you can normally withdraw money at your bank’s ATMs and selected other ATMs for free. You can also typically make transfers between accounts at no charge.
  • A linked savings account – Many banks give you the option of linking your bank account to a savings account, allowing you to easily transfer money between accounts.
  • Cashback offers – Some accounts come with cashback incentives for spending. These offers usually stipulate a minimum spend required to receive the cash benefit.

What are the pros and cons of an everyday bank account?

Most people need an everyday bank account for day-to-day expenses. However, when you do a bank accounts comparison, it’s useful to know the advantages and disadvantages of this type of account so you can know when to use it and when to consider other options.


  • Easy to access your money – Having a linked debit card makes it simple to withdraw cash, make purchases and shop online.
  • Purchase protection – Many banks offer a certain level of protection against fraudulent activities on your debit card. Some debit cards also come with extended warranty insurance, which lengthens the warranty on certain goods purchased with the card.
  • Low or no fees – Many everyday accounts offer unlimited free withdrawals at specified ATMs and have no account-keeping fees.


  • No interest earned – Because everyday accounts usually aren’t designed for long-term savings, most accounts don’t earn interest on the money you deposit. There are a small number of high-interest bank accounts out there, but most often the interest rate is still lower than that of a typical savings account.
  • Difficult to save – Incomings and outgoings tend to be frequent with transaction accounts, so you may find it difficult to establish a stable savings plan if this is the only type of account you have.
  • Overdraft fees – Many banks charge overdraft fees, so it’s important to keep an eye on your balance. Make sure you have enough money in your account to pay for purchases and cover direct debit withdrawals, such as bills.
  • Overseas transaction fees – While you can use your debit card to withdraw money at overseas ATMs and make purchases online, keep in mind that most overseas transactions come with a fee.

What to consider when comparing bank accounts

If you’re thinking of opening a new bank account or switching banks, it’s worth doing a side-by-side comparison of accounts to find one that’s right for you.

Here are some questions to consider when doing a bank accounts comparison.

What are my spending habits?

Your spending habits should influence what type of bank account and features you choose. If you make a lot of transactions every month through various methods (such as at ATMs, online and in stores), you may want to find an account that offers unlimited transactions for a low or no fee.

On the other hand, if you don’t make many transactions each month, you might find that a better option for you is an account with a withdrawal limit but other benefits such as a cashback offer.

Who is the debit card issuer?

There are two main debit card issues – MasterCard and Visa – and both come with their own benefits. For example, MasterCard may offer customers access to exclusive competitions, while Visa could give customers the chance to pre-purchase concert and event tickets. Debit cards from both issuers are widely available, so it’s worth considering which benefits are most valuable to you.

What features does the account have?

It’s important to look for an account that offers you the most value and flexibility when it comes to everyday purchases and managing your money. Some common features to choose from include:

  • ATM withdrawals – Most large banks have their own ATM networks, while smaller financial institutions may have partnerships with other ATM providers to offer convenient and fee-free access to cash. Check the fees and limits associated with ATM usage.
  • Internet banking – Being able to access your account online and transfer money can make it easier to manage everyday expenses.
  • BPAY – BPAY allows you to pay bills online using an allocated account and reference number for the payee. Some payees prefer this method of payment, so you may want to make sure it’s available before signing up for an account.
  • Branch access – Some smaller banks are online only. If you need to make transactions in a branch, check that you can do so.
  • Cheque books – If you need to make cheque payments, make sure you can have a cheque book attached to the account.

What are the fees?

In a competitive market, many transaction accounts come with low or no monthly fees. However, few accounts are completely fee-free. Here are some of the common fees to look out for:

  • Monthly fee – An account-keeping fee charged monthly. Some banks charge no monthly fees, and some waive the fee if a minimum amount is deposited each month.
  • ATM withdrawal fee – A fee for withdrawing cash at ATMs – usually waived if money is withdrawn from the bank’s own ATMs or partner ATMs.
  • Overdrawing fee – A fee charged when the account has a negative balance. This occurs when the bank honours a transaction even though you don’t have enough money in your account to pay, such as when a bill payment is direct debited.
  • International fees – Fees charged for withdrawing money at overseas ATMs and making transactions in an international currency. These include foreign transaction fees, foreign ATM charges, cash advance fees and cash advance interest rates.

Where to find information about bank accounts

Finding the right bank account for your circumstances takes a bit of research and planning. If you come across an account that looks appealing, make sure to read the fine print so you know exactly what you’re signing up for.

You can also use RateCity to compare bank accounts by features, fees, card type and more to find one that suits you. Above all, a bank account should make it straightforward and convenient to manage your everyday transactions.

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

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.

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 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.

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.

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 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.

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)

How do I transfer money from Paypal to my bank account?

Transferring cash from Paypal into your bank account is simple…if you have a Paypal account that is.

Once you’re logged into your Paypal account, the account balance will appear on your home page. Below your balance are two options:

  • Add money
  • Withdraw money

Choose option two if you want to transfer money from your Paypal account to your personal bank account.

The next screen will prompt you to either enter new bank account details or choose a bank account that’s connected to Paypal. You can always add more bank accounts to your Paypal profile.

Another way to transfer out of Paypal is by jumping to the wallet tab on the top menu, and clicking ‘transfer money’. Both options will give you the same result.

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.

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.

How do I overdraw my Commonwealth Bank account?

Overdrawing a bank account can happen by accident. It’s often hard to know what your balance is, particularly with direct debits, scheduled repayments and pending transactions competing for cash.

To avoid being stuck with a bank fee every time your account is overdrawn, you can apply for a personal overdraft. This will enable you to overdraw your account up to an approved amount.

A personal overdraft is connected to your CommBank Everyday Account, so you can enjoy easy access to extra funds once approved – anywhere from $100 up to $20,000.

Your overdraft funds can be accessed via your CommBank keycard or Debit MasterCard, or online through NetBank and the CommBank app.

To apply you can either call the Commonwealth Bank directly or visit your local branch.

Can British expats still open bank accounts?

As a British expat, you can open an Australian bank account, and you can apply for an account the same ways an Aussie would. You can even open an account online from the UK prior to relocating.

If you’re overseas, the bank you choose to open an account with may call you to provide you with our new account details beforehand. You can then have your ID verified within a branch once you’ve arrived.

And if you’re already living down under, the following list outlines the types of information required by most banks when opening an Australian bank account.

  • Australian residential address
  • Tax file number (TFN) or a TFN exemption
  • Identification (this can be your passport)

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 debt collectors take money out of your bank account?

Many people find themselves struggling to cope with debt at one time or another. In these cases, a debt collector could contact you to demand payment for a debt, to explain the consequences of you failing to pay a debt, or to organise alternative payment arrangements.

If you’re contacted by a debt collector, you may be wondering what their rights are and whether they can take money out of your bank account.

Creditors cannot access money in your bank account unless a court order (also known as a ‘garnishee order’) is made to allow creditors to recover debt by taking money from your bank account or salary.

If this happens, the creditor can take money out of your bank account unless you pay the debt in full or make an alternative payment arrangement such as paying in instalments through the court.

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.

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.