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Learn more about bank accounts

What is a debit card?

If you’re soon approaching the time where you need to set up your very first bank account, you need to firstly understand the tools you will be given to be able to access and manage

your money, and the features that each one offers.

The most popular method of being able to access your money is through a debit card issued

by the financial institution where you choose to keep your funds.

This card will be issued to you soon after you open a bank account (sometimes referred to as a transaction account), and how you can then access and spend your money will be determined by the terms and conditions set out by the card provider.

A debit card allows you to:

  • Withdraw cash from your provider’s branch or automatic teller machines (ATMs)
  • Make purchases with retailers who have EFTPOS (electronic funds transfer point-of sale) machines by using your own PIN (personal identification number), or through payWave or PayPass
  • Manage your money by being able to make deposits, monitor payments and spending and check your account balance 

What are the different features of debit cards?

All Australian banks and financial institutions offer a range of different features attached to debit cards which you need to compare when you’re selecting the most appropriate one for your circumstances, based on your own financial goals and lifestyle.

The key features to consider are: 

  • Fees: You need to look at all the fees attached to the account and the card to determine what will be most cost-effective for you. Look out for establishment fees, any ongoing account fees and transaction fees which may come into effect at certain usage levels.
  • Interest rates: If your debit card becomes overdrawn at any point, an interest rate is usually then applied to the amount and must be repaid on top of the overdrawn amount, so that your balance returns to at least $0.
  • Security features: Your card will have a unique PIN attributed to it, which is either allocated by the provider or set by you, as well as a card verification value (CVV), which is a three- or four-digit number found on the back of your debit card to help reduce fraud, by proving you have the actual card with you when you purchase.
  • PayPass or payWave: Some card providers will offer either of these instant transaction mechanisms so you’re able to use the card for purchases under a certain amount of money at an EFTPOS machine, simply by tapping the card.
  • Rewards programs: If you’re looking at a card that incorporates Visa ‘s payWave or Mastercard’s PayPass, you may also be able to access the rewards program attached to each one, by accumulating points through your transactions which then go towards a range of cash, flights, gift or shopping discount rewards.
  • Overseas use: If you need to use your card and account outside Australia, you need to look closely at what the foreign currency conversion costs may be on the card and whether there are any other additional fees attached to that use.
  • Joint accounts: If you’re looking at setting up an account and card for multiple people to use, so that you can manage joint costs such as household expenses, you need to look at what the conditions are that come with the card and ensure each person is aware of their individual responsibility.

What is the difference between a debit card and a credit card?

Debit cards only allow you to access your own funds – they do not allow you to borrow funds, as you would with a credit card.

Credit cards attract an interest rate on balances not repaid in full by the stipulated time, which must be paid back through regular interest repayments.

The benefit of a debit card is that you have the same level of accessibility to your funds, but you don’t have to repay any additional money borrowed on credit (unless you overdraw your debit account).

For that reason, you are not required to have a credit rating in order to have a debit card, but you will be subject to a credit rating check on your financial history if you apply for a credit card.

A credit rating takes into account your history of managing any credit products, and determines how worthy you are to have credit extended to you by a credit card provider.

Many people choose to progress from having a debit card to applying for a credit card, often because they may require more flexibility to manage their financial commitments in relation to assets or their lifestyle. However, the responsibility of having a credit card should not be considered unless you have shown continued discipline in relation to spending and the management of finances associated with your debit card and account.

Frequently asked questions

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 Centrelink access your bank account?

Yes, Centrelink can access your bank account, but only if you give them a reason to. Centrelink uses data-matching software with other federal government agencies to help it crack down on welfare cheats.

This is why it’s important to give true and matching information to all government agencies.

For example, if you report to Centrelink your annual income is $25,000, but at tax time you report your income as $50,000 with the ATO, it’s likely you’ll be ‘red flagged’.

At this point, Centrelink can legally request that your bank hand over your personal bank account details, to review your finances.

In most cases, Centrelink does not have the authority to take money out of your account. You will usually be given written notice to repay the debt.

However, Centrelink can also reduce your benefits until you’ve paid back what you owe. In extreme cases, Centrelink can garnish your wages and assets (including money in your bank account) until your debt is repaid.

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 I open a bank account for a baby?

If you’ve just welcome a new baby into the world, congratulations. Opening a bank account for your child can be a wonderful first gift.

Before you can open your child an account, you’ll need to have a birth certificate or passport for your baby.

As the parent or guardian, you’ll also be listed as a joint holder on the account. This means you’ll need to have proof of your identification and address (a driver’s licence, passport, birth certificate or Medicare Card).

Many banks and credit unions offer baby banks accounts. Usually, you can apply online; otherwise you can head into a local branch or office with your documents.

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 open a bank account if I'm under 18?

The good news for savvy young folks like you wanting to take charge of your finances is that there are many bank accounts available for under-18s.

For bank accounts that require you to be 18 or older, you’ll have to rope in a parent or guardian to open the account for you.

Otherwise, you can apply by yourself online or at the branch of the bank, credit union or building society that has the account you would like to open. 

If applying online, you might be asked for a form of identification. For under-18s, this could be a Medicare card you’re listed on, your birth certificate and/or your current home address.

In most cases, you can verify your identity online (at the time of applying) or at the branch afterwards.

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 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.

How can I find bank accounts in my name?

To find ‘live’ bank accounts in your name, you’ll have to ask individual lenders, which involves contacting them one by one and proving your identity each time. To find ‘unclaimed’ bank accounts (those that have been inactive for at least seven years), you can use this website.

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 you need a bank account to get a credit card?

To get a credit card, you need to show proof of income, which will almost certainly require you to have a bank account.

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 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.

How can I deposit cash into my bank account?

The traditional way to deposit cash into your bank account is to go to a branch and give it to a teller. These days, many banks will allow you to make deposits through an ATM as well.

How do you open a bank account under 18?

If you’re under 18 and you want to open an Australian bank account, you will need your passport or birth certificate. (Some lenders might require just a Medicare card or driver’s licence.) You can apply online or at a branch. If you’re 13 or under, you will probably need a parent to accompany you to a branch.

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.

What do I need to open a company bank account?

To open a company bank account, you will probably have to provide 100 points of ID, an ABN and an ACN. You will probably have to provide the details of all signatories as well.

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.

What do you need to open bank accounts?

Opening a bank account is one of the simplest online tasks you could perform. The hard part is deciding which type of bank account you want to open.

All banking institutions have a website where you hit ‘apply’ on the account of your choice and step through an application in less than 10 minutes.

Here’s a list of information that is generally required for applications.

  • Identification (driver’s licence, passport, proof of age card, proof of citizenship and/or birth certificate)
  • Tax file number (so you don’t get charged the highest tax rate)
  • Address, contact email and phone number

If you decide to open a new account at the branch, make sure you ask beforehand what information you need to take with you, or take all of the above to be safe.

How can you cash a cheque without a bank account?

You can cash a cheque without a bank account if you visit the bank that issued the cheque. For example, if somebody sends you a cheque from Bank X (as written on the cheque) and you visit Bank X, it’s likely that Bank X will let you cash the cheque – provided the person who wrote the cheque has enough money in their account. Bank X would probably charge you a fee for the service.