Bank accounts are an essential part of our lives in Australia, but that doesn’t mean that you should have to pay for storing your money in a bank. 

There are ways to find an everyday bank account that doesn’t charge you fees, or charges you low fees, but this might mean you’re not able to enjoy the full range of services (after all, you get what you pay for). 

Here’s everything you need to know about fee free bank accounts.

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$0

Free access to thousands of ATMs nationwide

CUA

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3.96

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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 the account, such as whether it is 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.

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 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.

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

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 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 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.

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 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.

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 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 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 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.

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 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.

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)

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 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).

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 close a Commonwealth Bank account?

You can close your Commonwealth Bank account at any branch, provided you have appropriate identification. You can also close your account over the phone, by calling 132 221, 24 hours a day.

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.