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Choosing a bank account can be an overwhelming task. Whether you’re looking for your first one, or simply want to see if you can get a better deal, you’ll be confronted with hundreds of options – many of which appear largely the same.
Then there are the fees – ATM fees, account-keeping fees, surcharge fees, transaction fees and so on. It’s hard to know what you should and shouldn’t be paying.
The good news is, bank account ATM fees are one fee that can often be avoided – either by shopping around for the right bank account or being savvy with the way you do your banking. Here are some pointers to help you.
What is an ATM fee?
Automated teller machines (ATMs) are either owned by a bank, interbank network or an independent provider – you can usually tell who owns it by the branding on the outside of the machine.
Often, the owner of the ATM will charge consumers a usage fee to withdraw money. The fee is sometimes imposed only to non-members of the bank who use the ATM. However, some banks charge all consumers withdrawal fees, regardless of who they bank with.
Not surprisingly, bank account ATM fees are quite controversial and many people oppose them due to the fact that ATMs are actually cheaper for banks to operate than human tellers.
What types of ATM fees are there?
There are two main types of ATM fees that are forwarded on to consumers:
- Surcharge fee: This fee is imposed by the financial institution or independent organisation that owns the ATM. It’s charged directly to the consumer using the machine for making a transaction.
- Foreign fee: This fee is enforced by the issuer of the bank account (usually the consumer’s chosen financial institution) when a consumer makes a withdrawal outside their network of machines – often internationally.
What is the average bank account ATM fee?
ATM withdrawal fees can vary from institution to institution. A typical fee is about $2.50. However, if it’s an independent or third-party ATM provider, the ATM fee can be $3 or $4. It’s unlikely that you’ll pay higher than $5 in Australia.
Which bank accounts offer no ATM fees?
Increasingly, financial institutions are offering bank accounts that waive ATM fees – surcharge, foreign or both.
However, you’ll be more likely to find ATM-fee-free bank accounts by choosing a smaller, more independent lender.
The key is to always do your research and make sure that you choose a bank account that suits your spending habits and lifestyle.
How do I avoid paying ATM fees?
There are a few ways to reduce your chances of paying ATM fees on bank account withdrawals:
- Choose partner ATMs or ones owned by your financial institution. Often, your bank account won’t charge you fees if you withdraw money from an ATM that’s owned by them or one of their partner banks. If you’re not sure whether your bank has fee-free ATMs (or where they are), most banks have an ATM locator tool on their website that allows you to quickly locate them.
- Shift your banking habits online. Mobile banking or internet banking not only helps you save time, but also money. Most financial institutions offer sophisticated online banking options or applications that allow you to check your balance, transfer money and pay bills without the reliance on cash.
- Be savvy when travelling overseas. There are global alliance ATMs around the world that allow you to make withdrawals without getting hit with a heavy ATM fee. Alternatively, speak to your financial institution about different options like travel cards.
- Scout out fee-free debit cards. Paying ATM fees isn’t always a given. Financial institutions are becoming increasingly competitive, meaning you can hunt around to find a bank account that waives fees altogether. Always make sure you check out the terms and conditions in detail before applying for a bank account (no matter how good it may seem).
Can I use my credit card for withdrawals to avoid bank account ATM fees?
While your credit card does allow you to withdraw from ATMs, it can come at a high cost. Credit card ATM withdrawals incur cash advance fees and interest rates. So, it’s a good idea to pay without cash where possible or stick to using your debit card for ATM withdrawals.
What changes have occurred to ATM fees on bank accounts?
Banks have been receiving increasing pressure to waive bank account ATM fees. In order to keep consumers happy and compete with fee-free bank accounts, all of the big four banks axed ATM fees in late 2017.
Latest news and articles
ING scraps international fees: now the pressure is on the Big 4 to follow suit
ING has today scrapped all international ATM, credit and debit card charges for their customers. This includes ATM withdrawal fees, ATM currency conversion fees, international purchase fees on debit cards and a refund of any overseas third party ATM fees.
From paper to plastic – how to ditch fees for good
A small fee on your last bank transaction might feel like a drop in the ocean, but if you’re ignoring all your account fees, you may soon be struggling to keep your head above water. If you take the time to do your research, you could ditch the pesky fees for good.
Property Personal Finance Writer
A property and personal finance writer, Nick Bendel covered property, loans, credit cards, superannuation, and other bank products. Nick has previously written for The Adviser, Mortgage Business, Lifehacker, Business Insider, Yahoo Finance, and InvestorDaily, and loves getting elbow-deep in the latest ABS, APRA and RBA data.
Frequently asked questions
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 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.
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
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 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.
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 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)
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 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.
Can foreigners open bank account in Australia?
If you’re migrating, studying or working in Australia, you’ll be pleased to know that you can open an Australian bank account. For the most part, opening a bank account in Australia is a simple process which starts by comparing the types of bank accounts foreigners can open in Australia.
Once you’ve found a bank account that suits your needs, you can start the application process.
When you apply for the account, you’ll need to provide proof of ID which may include your passport, overseas ID or credit card. You may also need to provide a copy of your visa and proof of address in Australia.
Depending on the bank and the type of account you choose, you may be able to apply for the account online or over the phone before you arrive in Australia.
How do I overdraw my Commonwealth Bank account?
Overdrawing a bank account can happen by accident. It’s often hard to know what your balance is, particularly with direct debits, scheduled repayments and pending transactions competing for cash.
To avoid being stuck with a bank fee every time your account is overdrawn, you can apply for a personal overdraft. This will enable you to overdraw your account up to an approved amount.
A personal overdraft is connected to your CommBank Everyday Account, so you can enjoy easy access to extra funds once approved – anywhere from $100 up to $20,000.
Your overdraft funds can be accessed via your CommBank keycard or Debit MasterCard, or online through NetBank and the CommBank app.
To apply you can either call the Commonwealth Bank directly or visit your local branch.
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.
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 I close my bank account online?
You can usually easily open a bank account online, but you often can’t close it online.
Many banks and credit unions will only let you close an account if you go into a branch or call them on the phone.
However, some banks will let you request to close the account via your internet banking. Check your financial provider’s website for details.
Just remember: If you still have funds in the bank account, transfer them to another account, or withdraw the cash. Also, if you have any payments like direct debits going in or out of the bank account, these will also stop when you close your account.
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.
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.
How long does it take to open a bank account?
The length of time it takes to open a bank account varies, depending on whether you want to open it online or in person.
Most banks and credit unions have simple online applications that usually take no more than 10 minutes to fill out. It can be especially fast if you have your identification documents like your driver’s licence and passport handy. Sometimes you will instantly be approved and the bank account opened. However, depending on the financial institution, it may take a day or so to be processed and your account number issued. Your account information and ATM or debit card will then be mailed to you, which usually takes between five to 10 days.
If you decide to go into a branch or office to open a bank account, it may take about half an hour. Make sure you bring your identification documents with you. Also book an appointment if you can, otherwise you might be forced to wait in line. Sometimes your ATM or debit card will be issued on the spot, otherwise you’ll need to wait for one to arrive by mail, which usually takes between five to 10 days.
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.
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 I open bank accounts for my children?
A common question for new parents is, ‘Can I open a bank account for my child?’
The short answer is yes – as a parent you can open a bank account for your child.
Once you’ve compared your options and found a bank account that suits your needs, the process is relatively simple.
As the bank account is for your child, you’ll need to provide some documentation such as proof of ID, including your tax file number.
You will also need a copy of your child’s birth certificate, and in some cases you may also need to sign a guarantee of indemnity.
Depending on the bank and whether you’re an existing customer, you may be able to open a bank account for your child online. However, you may still need to go into a branch to prove your identity.