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Learn more about bank accounts

Why do banks charge fees?

To put it simply, banks charge fees in order to make money. Any fees charged make up that financial institutions' revenue. It’s important to remember that banks are businesses, and businesses need to make money in order to sustain themselves and remain profitable. 

Charging a number of small, seemingly innocuous fees to their customers is one of many ways that the banks achieve this.

However, many banks don't charge you ongoing fees, like monthly account fees or foreign transaction fees. This is why it literally pays to do your research when choosing a bank account. 

What kind of fees should I look out for in my bank account?

There are a number of different fees that banks charge on bank accounts (also known as transaction accounts). If you are looking to do anything with your money, there could be a fee for it.

Here are some of the most common bank account fees: 

  • Monthly account keeping fees – As the name implies, these are charged on a monthly basis. This fee is usually a few dollars and is essentially charged to keep your account open. Many banks will waive this fee if you deposit a certain amount each month or keep your balance over a particular amount. This incentivises customers to put more of their money in their bank account.
  • Foreign transaction fees - Another common fee type that may be charged are overseas fees, such as foreign currency conversion fees, overseas EFTPOS fees, overseas ATM fees and general, international transaction fees - whether shopping online on an international website or travelling.
  • ATM fees – The big four banks now charge no ATM fees, but this doesn’t stop smaller banks from charging you an ATM withdrawal fee, usually at around $2 per transaction. Some bank accounts also have a limit on the number of ATM withdrawals you can make in a month and will charge you if you exceed this number.
  • Internet and phone banking – Depending on your bank account, you may be charged for withdrawals or deposits made when using these services.
  • EFTPOS transaction fees – It’s possible that you could be charged for using your debit or EFTPOS card to make a purchase.
  • Branch fees – This can be charged when you visit your bank’s branch to make a transaction, through a withdrawal or over-the-counter deposit fees. Your bank may also charge you a cheque fee if you need to make a cheque payment, though this is becoming less common.
  • Overdraft or dishonour fees – A fee could be charged if the balance on your bank account drops below zero. You will be charged an overdraft/overdrawn fee or dishonour fee by your bank for trying to make a payment when you don’t have enough funds. For example, if you have a joint account, and you haven't communicated your purchases with this person when a bill is due, this may result in accidental overdrafts. You can avoid this by choosing an account that does not charge overdraft fees. This would cause your transactions to decline, rather than put you in overdraft. This may be a little embarrassing at the cash register, but it’s also a lot less expensive.

So how do I find a no fee bank account?

While this might look like a lot of fees, it’s worth pointing out that most bank accounts will not charge any at all. They might be profit-driven, but banks still need to be competitive at the end of the day to incentivise new and existing customers to bank with them. This is even more reason why it's valuable to shop around when choosing your bank account, so you're not stuck paying fees when others don't.

The best way to find a fee free bank account is to compare your options and do your research. Tools like comparison tables can help you compare apples with apples. The comparison table on this page allows you to view some of the most common fees, like account keeping fees and ATM fees. This immediately lets you rule out these options in your search. You can then look at individual features and other perks provided by a no fee bank account, such as whether it is offers a Mastercard or Visa debit card.  

Is a low fee bank account better than a fee free bank account? If you find a bank account that ticks all of the other boxes, but still charges for certain services like overseas fees but not withdrawal fees, weigh up how likely you are to use these services. If your bank charges a few dollars to issue a cheque, but you doubt you’ll need to use this service, this fee may not even be a problem for you. Alternatively, you can search for a no cheque deposit fee account. 

In other words, depending on your financial situation, by being consumer-savvy and doing your research, you can turn a low fee bank account with fees into an “unofficial” fee fee bank account.

Which banks offer savings accounts with no monthly fee?

Once you start shopping around, you’ll notice that there are plenty of fee-free account options on the market. You may find suitable offerings from the big four banks (ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac), though some may have conditions attached to their fee-free options.

Here are some of the accounts charging no monthly fees, offered by the big four as well as other lenders:

To explore other options, use the comparison table on this page.

Are there any bank account perks?

Bank accounts might not have the same extravagant perks as credit cards, such as concierge services and VIP event seating. However, there are certain benefits that financial institutions offer for choosing one of their bank accounts. Here are some perks and bonuses you may find:

  1. Interest. Despite not being savings accounts, some providers still offer customers interest on their banking accounts. You can compare these bank accounts through the comparison table on this page by sorting your search via 'Maximum Interest Rate'.
  2. Rewards. Some bank accounts also allow you to accrue rewards points through eligible purchases and/or maintaining a minimum account balance. This is less common nowadays thanks to the continued popularity of rewards credit cards. But these rewards may include frequent flyer points, gift cards for affiliated stores, cash back and more. 
  3. Savings tools. Most savings accounts now require your transaction account to be linked to your saver. Not only does this make meeting minimum deposit requirements easier, but you may be able to boost your savings with 'Round-Up' tools. Round Up tools allows savers to automatically transfer spare cash between their earnings and expenses via direct debits into their savings account.
  4. Digital wallets. Whether you are team iPhone or team Android, many bank accounts also now offer Apple Pay,  Google Pay and Samsung Pay. This allow you to make transactions using your smartphone, rather than a debit card. This process can make online banking simpler at checkout as all your details will be preloaded. Not all banks or bank accounts currently offer this option, so look out for one that does if this appeals to you. 
  5. Cardless cash. Using digital wallet technology, cardless cash is another feature that banks are rolling out more and more. This service allows you to use your bank’s mobile app to pay for everyday purchases and make ATM withdrawals, even if you don’t have your card on you.

Will a fee free bank account really offer no fees? Just because a bank is calling its transaction account 'fee free' may not mean it's so. Oftentimes you may see an account advertised as fee free as it doesn't charge a monthly account-keeping fee. However, you may still be stung at the ATM, or when shopping internationally via currency conversion. Read the product disclosure statement linked to any financial product before you apply. This will also outline any eligibility criteria required on application.

Frequently asked questions

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.

How do I open a bank account for a baby?

If you’ve just welcome a new baby into the world, congratulations. Opening a bank account for your child can be a wonderful first gift.

Before you can open your child an account, you’ll need to have a birth certificate or passport for your baby.

As the parent or guardian, you’ll also be listed as a joint holder on the account. This means you’ll need to have proof of your identification and address (a driver’s licence, passport, birth certificate or Medicare Card).

Many banks and credit unions offer baby banks accounts. Usually, you can apply online; otherwise you can head into a local branch or office with your documents.

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 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 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 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)

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 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.

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.

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.

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 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 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.

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 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.

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.

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 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.

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.