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Learn more about bank accounts

If you manage most of your incoming and outgoing money through an everyday bank account, you might be wondering if you can earn a decent amount of interest on a standard transaction account.

While some transaction accounts come with a higher-than-average interest rate, these rates still tend to be lower than the interest rates available on savings accounts.

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

A transaction account, also known simply as a ‘bank account’, is a standard account used for day-to-day expenses. This is typically the account that you have your salary paid into and use to pay bills. You can access funds using a debit or credit card, and usually don’t have to pay any fees for ATM withdrawals or transfers.

A savings account is designed to help you save over the long term and allow you to earn interest on the money you’ve deposited into the account. Typically, they offer a higher interest rate than a standard transaction account.

Savings accounts often carry withdrawal fees and monthly withdrawal limits to encourage you to save. This is also advantageous for banks, because they can use customers’ savings deposits to balance their books when lending money to other customers.

How do bank account interest rates work?

Banks set interest rates based largely (although not entirely) on the Reserve Bank of Australia’s cash rate. Usually, a lower cash rate equals a lower interest rate on your savings account.

Some high-interest bank accounts earn compound interest, which means you earn interest on the money you have deposited as well as the interest you’ve earned. Other accounts earn simple interest, which means you only earn interest at the end of a specified term.

It’s important to check how often interest accrues on a bank account, because a compound interest account will yield higher returns over time.

For example, if you invest $8,000 for three years at 5 per cent per year, with simple interest paid at the end of the term, you would earn $1,200 in interest ($400 each year), giving you a total balance of $9,200.

If you invest $8,000 for three years at 5 per cent, with compound interest calculated and added monthly, you would earn $1,292 in compound interest after three years, giving you a total of $9,292. The total returns are higher because you earn interest on interest.

Advantages and disadvantages of high-interest bank accounts

There are plenty of investment options out there, and a high-interest bank account is just one of them. Here are some of the potential benefits and drawbacks to having a high-interest transaction account:

Advantages

  • Safe investment – Your money is protected under the Australian government’s guarantee for authorised deposit-taking institutions (ADIs) such as banks, building societies and credit unions.
  • Easy access – Because it’s a transaction account, it’s easy for you to access your money when you need it.
  • Dual function – You can use a single account for everyday expenses as well as to save money.

Disadvantages

  • Lower interest rates – Typically, even high-interest bank accounts have a lower interest rate than savings accounts.
  • Savings and everyday expenses are combined – You may find it easier to stick to a savings plan if you have a separate savings account that you don’t dip into for day-to-day expenses.
  • Returns are modest – Other investment options may yield better returns (although they also tend to be riskier).

What to look for when choosing a high-interest bank account

Not all high-interest bank accounts are created equal, so it pays to do some research and find one that can offer you the most value and savings potential over time. Here are three of the key considerations:

1. Introductory rates

Some bank accounts come with an offer of a high introductory variable interest rate for a set period. Once this period is over, the interest rate will default to the standard. Check how long the introductory rate applies (if there is one) and whether the standard rate is reasonable.

2. Fees

Some high-interest bank accounts come with account-keeping fees or transaction fees. If you choose an account with fees, make sure the benefits outweigh the costs.

3. Savings goals

Your savings plan and goals should dictate the type of high-interest bank account you choose. For example, if you are putting money aside for a year to go on a holiday, an account with a high introductory rate but lower standard rate might suit you. On the other hand, if you are saving for a house deposit over a few years, you may want to look for a long-term savings account with a more stable interest rate.

Take a look at RateCity’s high-interest bank account comparison tool to find an account that’s right for you.

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.

How do you deposit change into your bank account?

One way to deposit change into your bank account is to visit a branch. Many lenders will also allow you to deposit your change through one of their ATMs.

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 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.

How can I wire money to a bank account?

You can wire money to an Australian bank account either through your own bank or by using a money transfer company such as Western Union or MoneyGram. Either way, you’ll need the other person’s name, BSB number and account number. If you use a money transfer company, you might also need to provide the recipient’s address for large payments.

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.

Can foreigners open bank accounts in Australia?

Many Australian lenders allow foreigners to open bank accounts in Australia. Often, this can be done before you arrive in the country – with no Australian address required. When you get to Australia, you can pick up your debit card, using your passport as identification.

Can you get a payday loan without a bank account?

Yes. Some payday lenders are willing to transfer loans to prepaid debit cards instead of bank accounts.

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 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.

Can you open a bank account at 16?

Yes, you can open a bank account at 16, or even younger. If you’re 13 or under, you will probably need a parent to accompany you to a branch.

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.

Which bank is best for business accounts?

Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer to the question of which bank is best for business accounts. That’s because ‘best’ will differ from customer to customer, depending on their unique circumstances. These include not only your company’s financial position, but also its size, its age and the sector in which it operates. Another factor to consider is what features you want in a bank account. Your business may require different features than another business; and your business may require different features tomorrow than it does today.

The best thing to do is to thoroughly research the market before opening a business account. And when you do open an account, you should reassess your options every year or two, because the market moves quickly. A particular bank might offer the best account today, but be surpassed by one or several rivals tomorrow.

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 start a bank account online?

Yes, most lenders that operate in Australia will let you set up a bank account online. The process is usually simple and takes five to 10 minutes. You will probably need to provide a passport or birth certificate, as well as a driver’s licence, Medicare card or another form of secondary identification. Requirements differ from lender to lender, so some institutions might ask for more or different forms of ID.

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.

How can I check my bank account balance online?

Checking your bank account balance online is a simple process. Once you’ve logged in to your online banking, clock on the relevant account and the balance should be visible.

What do I need to open bank accounts online?

Opening a bank account online is a simple process and only takes between five to 10 minutes to complete. To get started you will need a computer or smartphone with internet access.

Information to have available when you’re ready to apply is:

  • Identification (such as driver’s licence, birth certificate, passport, proof-of-age card)
  • Tax file number
  • Residential address, email and a contact number

In some cases, you might be asked to provide employment details. If you’re not able to verify your identity online, most financial institutions let you provide this in the branch at a later date.

There are some types of bank account that you can apply for only in a branch. However, most bank accounts can be applied for conveniently online.

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.

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.