What to consider before choosing a bank account
A bank account, also known as a transaction account or an everyday account, allows you to more easily manage your finances. Most people have one of these accounts, where their salaries are deposited and money for bills and expenses is withdrawn as required. These accounts often earn very little or no interest, so many people consider linking a savings account to them with a higher rate of interest.
Your spending habits will influence what type of bank account and features you should consider.
There are two broad types of spending profiles; high transactor and low transactor.
This type of spender will make an average of 35 or more transactions per month, and prefer a wide range of transaction methods, such as ATM, cheque, branch, phone and internet. These types of spenders typically suit bank accounts that charge higher monthly account keeping fees, though if you look for options with low or no fees, you may be able to save yourself more.
On average, this type of spender will make a maximum of 10 transactions per month, and use a wide range of transaction types, such as branch, ATM, cheque, phone and internet. Because this type of spender doesn’t use their bank account as often, look for an account with low or no monthly account keeping fees.
A debit card with a Visa or Mastercard attached is similar to a credit card as it allows you to purchase items in shops using eftpos or credit facilities, by either signing a receipt, entering a PIN number or using contactless “tap and go” payments.
The difference between a debit card and a credit card is that a debit card uses your own money first, and only start borrowing money from your bank if you spend more than what’s in your account, as long as you previously set up a credit limit.
The major benefit of a Visa or Mastercard debit card is that it provides similar functionality to a credit card, so you can make purchases over the internet, phone and overseas.
Mastercard or Visa?
Unlike credit cards, which have three main issuers (MasterCard, Visa and American Express), debit cards currently have only two – Mastercard and Visa. Choosing between the two will depend on your bank account and the benefits attached. Both options are available through a wide range of financial institutions and can be used around the world.
Mastercard offers customers access to exclusive competitions and offers while Visa offers customers access to pre-purchase tickets to concerts and gigs before they go on sale to the public as well as other exclusive deals.
Most bank accounts come with a range of features depending on your needs. When choosing a transaction account, look for one that has all the features you require so you can get the most out of your account. Some common features to choose from include:
Allows you tomake debit card transactions via eftpos to buy items in shops instantly, using your own money.
Allows you to withdraw money from an ATM using your bank account's debit card.
Larger banks and lenders may have their own ATM networks, while smaller lenders may only offer ATMs at their branches, or have partnerships with other ATM providers to offer convenient access to cash from your bank account.
Allows you to access your bank account details online and make transactions, such as transferring money between accounts.
Allows you tomake transactions in person in a bank branch.
Some smaller banks are online only, and don’t offer branch access.
If a cheque book is attached to this account.
BPAY is a facility that allows you to pay bills online using an allocated account and reference number. Funds are withdrawn directly from your transaction account and credited to the company whose bill you paid.
The fees charged on different bank accounts may vary, depending on your account balance, the number of withdrawals and other transactions you make, and whether your bank puts any limits in place.
Account keeping fee
A monthly fee that your financial institutionmay chargeto cover the administration costs of managing your account.
eftpos transaction fee
Fees charged for making transactions via eftpos when shopping in stores.
ATM withdrawal fee
Fee charged if you withdraw money via an ATM.
Some banks charge for withdrawing money from their own ATMs, as well as from machines from other ATM networks. Be sure to check what your financial institution charges.
Branch withdrawal fee
Fees for withdrawing money in person when visiting a branch.
Cheque withdrawal and/or deposit fee
Fees charged for withdrawing money using a cheque, orfor depositing a cheque into your account.
Making a fee comparison
When comparing fees for transaction accounts on RateCity you can sort your results by:
- Account Fees: The results will show all monthly account keeping fees in order from lowest to highest.
- Average Fees: The results will show all transaction account fees averaged out according to whether you are a high or low transactor. That way you can see how much you will likely be charged in fees depending on your spending habits.
Finding a bank account that offers free transactions or a rebate is another handy way to reduce the amount you pay in fees.
If you are a high transactor and make plenty of transactions each month, look for a bank account with a low or no account keeping fee and a high number of free transactions.
Most transaction accounts that offer free transactions are set up to encourage you to do your banking online, via phone banking and through eftpos and ATMs, therefore reducing the amount of time spent in the branch.
Some financial institutions may offer bank accounts with rebates to cover the costs of any transaction fees charged by other institutions.
Typically, if you have more than one account with the one institution, such as a home loan, credit card and a transaction account, they can reward you for doing more business with them by offering rebates of standard fees.
The way it usually works is that you are charged for your fees at the end or beginning of each month, but then any rebates you’re entitled to are deducted and the net amount is debited from your account.
When you find a bank account that suits you, the good news is that you may be able to control the amount you pay in fees by following these tips:
Keep an eye on your free transactions
Some bank accounts offer a minimum number of free transactions before you start being charged fees. If this is the case with your account, make sure you monitor the number and type of transactions you make so that you don’t exceed the limit and end up paying more than you must.
Make strategic withdrawals
Withdraw money more efficiently by taking out larger sums. That way you can limit the number of transactions you make overall, and in turn limit the fees you may be charged.
Consider how you make in-store payments
If you have a credit-debit card on your account, consider selecting “credit” when making purchases, to avoid transaction fees.
Keep in mind credit transactions may incur surcharges from certain merchants, and using credit to withdraw cash from an ATM can involve high interest charges on cash advances.
Consider using eftpos as your ATM
If you’d rather not be hit with fees for making withdrawals via ATMs, ask for “cash out” when buying using eftpos, instead.
Make regular deposits
Some financial institutions will waive the account keeping fees if you deposit a certain amount of money each month. Check with your institution if they have any special offers like this.