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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.

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.

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.

Can I close a bank account with pending transactions?

You can close a bank account with pending transactions. But after the account is closed, any incoming transactions will be declined by your (old) bank.

The best way to ensure this doesn’t occur is to either wait to close your account until all pending transactions are complete, or contact the creditor and supply them with alternate bank details.

If you’re unsure whether you have any scheduled transactions, you can speak to a banking representative over the phone or via online support.

In most cases, your bank withholds the amount owing for pending transactions (such as online purchases).

Because the pending amount is deducted from your bank balance, you can close your bank account and the purchase will be honoured.

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 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.

How can I close an ANZ Bank account from overseas?

There are two ways you can close your ANZ Bank account from overseas:

  • Call +64 4 472 7123 (toll charges apply)
  • Send a bank mail request via ANZ internet banking

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.

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 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.

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)

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.

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 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 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 you delete your bank account from PayPal?

Deleting your bank account from PayPal is a simple three-step process:

  • Go to your Wallet
  • Choose the account you’d like to delete
  • Click ‘Remove bank account’

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 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 you find a bank account number by name?

For privacy reasons, Australian banks won’t hand out account numbers or other details about their customers. However, if you provide a bank with a BSB and account number, they should be able to confirm if those numbers belong to one of their customers.

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.