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Learn more about bank accounts

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Frequently asked questions

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.

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.

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 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.

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 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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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 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 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 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 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

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 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 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 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 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.