If you’re planning on travelling abroad this holiday season, or buying online from an overseas retailer, it pays to check whether your bank charges foreign transaction fees.

Cutting back on the fees that come with spending your money overseas could save you hundreds of dollars, which is why banks are now offering accounts with no foreign transaction fees.

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Learn more about bank accounts

What are foreign transaction fees?

Foreign transaction fees are an additional amount charged to your bank account when you make a purchase with a foreign retailer.

The fee charged is usually between 2 and 4 per cent of the total transaction amount.

Are foreign transaction fees the same as currency conversion fees?

No, foreign transaction fees are not the same as currency conversion fees. Foreign transaction fees are a general cost associated with any and all transactions with overseas retailers or overseas ATMs.

Currency conversion fees on the other hand are charged to cover the cost of converting foreign currency back into your local currency.

How much can you save with a bank account that has no foreign transaction fees?

Bank accounts that do not charge foreign transaction fees could save you hundreds of dollars.

Consider the following: you’re going on a couples holiday for five days to Germany, from Australia.

You purchase flights, accommodation and tours from a German website, in Australian currency. You then spend €1600 in Germany during your six day holiday.

The currency conversion fee is 1% of the €1600 spent, which brings your total spending to €1616 or $2618.96 Australian dollars.

Below you can see the savings you would make by switching to a bank account with no foreign transaction fees, in comparison to one that charges 3%.

  No foreign transaction fee 3% foreign transaction fee
Flights ($2500AUD) $2,500 $2,575
Accommodation ($1700AUD) $1,700 $1,751
Holiday tours ($650AUD) $650 $669.50
Spending (€1616 / $2618.96AUD) $2618.96 $2,697.53
TOTAL $7,468.96 $7,693.03

That’s a saving of $224.07 over a five day holiday.

Which Australian banks have no foreign transaction fees?

Here are three Australian bank accounts that have no foreign transaction fees, so you can spend your money on travelling, instead of on fees.

  • ING Everyday Account will refund all foreign exchange charges, and charges no monthly fees and as long as you deposit over $1,000 month
  • Citi Global Currency Account has no foreign transaction or monthly fees. With 10 different currencies available, you'll only be charged a 2.50% fee if you withdraw money from an ATM where the currency withdrawn doesn't match the currency of the account.
  • HSBC Everyday Global Account has no monthly fees or foreign transaction fees, however ATM operator fees may apply.

To see a full list of bank accounts with no fees, click here.

How do you choose a bank account with no foreign transaction fees?

Before you apply for a bank account with no foreign transaction fees, it’s a good idea to compare multiple accounts. To do this, you may look at aspects other than the fact they have no foreign transaction fees.

These features may include:

  • Account fees: do they charge a fee and is there a monthly deposit required to avoid it?
  • ATM fees: do they charge fees for using another bank’s ATM?
  • Technology: do they offer online banking features or an app for easy management?
  • Branch availability: do they have a branch where you can speak with someone?

How do you apply for a bank account with no foreign transaction fees?

After you’ve chosen your new bank account, you can either go into a branch or complete an online application.

For this application you will need to provide a range of documents including:

  • Photo ID: you will need to show a driver’s license or passport to confirm your identity
  • Other identification: you may also need to show another credit card, or government issued card with your name on it to prove your identity e.g Medicare card
  • Personal details: you will need to provide your date of birth, name, title, address etc
  • Proof of physical address: most banks require you prove your physical address by providing a utility bill or previous bank statement with both your name and address on it
  • Funds to deposit into the account: banks will expect you to deposit funds into the new account when you open it, be sure to check if they have a minimum deposit amount

After you’ve completed the application, the bank will review it and decide whether they will allow you to open your new bank account.

Frequently asked questions

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.

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 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.

What do I need to open bank accounts online?

Opening a bank account online is a simple process and only takes between five to 10 minutes to complete. To get started you will need a computer or smartphone with internet access.

Information to have available when you’re ready to apply is:

  • Identification (such as driver’s licence, birth certificate, passport, proof-of-age card)
  • Tax file number
  • Residential address, email and a contact number

In some cases, you might be asked to provide employment details. If you’re not able to verify your identity online, most financial institutions let you provide this in the branch at a later date.

There are some types of bank account that you can apply for only in a branch. However, most bank accounts can be applied for conveniently online.

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 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 I find bank accounts in my name?

To find ‘live’ bank accounts in your name, you’ll have to ask individual lenders, which involves contacting them one by one and proving your identity each time. To find ‘unclaimed’ bank accounts (those that have been inactive for at least seven years), you can use this website.

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.

What do you need to open bank accounts?

Opening a bank account is one of the simplest online tasks you could perform. The hard part is deciding which type of bank account you want to open.

All banking institutions have a website where you hit ‘apply’ on the account of your choice and step through an application in less than 10 minutes.

Here’s a list of information that is generally required for applications.

  • Identification (driver’s licence, passport, proof of age card, proof of citizenship and/or birth certificate)
  • Tax file number (so you don’t get charged the highest tax rate)
  • Address, contact email and phone number

If you decide to open a new account at the branch, make sure you ask beforehand what information you need to take with you, or take all of the above to be safe.

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.

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.

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 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 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.

Do you need a bank account to get a credit card?

To get a credit card, you need to show proof of income, which will almost certainly require you to have a bank account.

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 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.

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.

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.