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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.

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 a debt collector garnish my bank account?

A debt collector can garnish your bank account, but only with a court order. This drastic action is usually taken only if you’ve ignored several notices asking you to pay the debt.

If this happens, there is nothing you can do to stop it other than immediately pay back your what you owe in full or make arrangements to pay it off in installments.

Once a garnishee order is issued, your bank will put a freeze on your account as it processes the order. This usually takes two to three days and you won’t be able to access any of your money during this time.

If you have Centrelink payments, they may be protected, depending on what the court order says.

Are bank accounts frozen when someone dies?

Yes, Australian bank accounts are frozen when someone dies. If you want to close the account of somebody who has died, you might have to provide proof of death and a copy of the will. You might also have to prove your relationship to the deceased person.

If you have a joint bank account with somebody who has died, you will generally be entitled to all the money in the account. Again, you might have to provide proof of death if you want to change the bank account from a joint account to a one-person 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).

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.

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.

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 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.

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 link a bank account to Paypal?

Paypal is a safe and convenient way to pay online without the need to share your financial details. You can send and receive money or accept credit and debit cards as a seller using Paypal.

It’s easy to link your bank account to a Paypal account and start making transactions within minutes.

To start, you first need a Paypal account (it’s free to join). When setting up your Paypal account, you will be prompted to link a credit card or bank account (or both if you wish).

PayPal works without a balance; you can use Paypal to shop or send money when your balance is zero.

When your Paypal balance is zero, Paypal will ask you to choose your preferred payment method at the checkout.

This could be either your linked bank account or credit card. Your bank details can be updated if you change banks or credit cards.

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.

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 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.