Can you visit a bank branch during COVID-19?

Can you visit a bank branch during COVID-19?

COVID-19 has changed the way Australians do a lot of everyday things, but when it comes to your banking, it’s crucial to know how visiting branches may be impacted.

You can still visit bank branches during COVID-19, as distancing regulations have not yet closed all branch doors. However, many banks have had to temporarily close branches in some locations, as well as greatly reduce store hours.

And for those branches still open, you may be wondering what practices or technologies, if any, have been implemented to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Are the big four banks’ branches still open?

If you bank with one of the big four in Australia, here is what you need to know about whether branches are open and how hours may have changed:

Bank Are branches open?
Commonwealth Bank Yes, with some locations temporarily closed. Branches now close 4pm Monday – Friday, not open Saturdays and Sundays.
Westpac Yes, with some locations temporarily closed.
ANZ Yes, with some locations temporarily closed. Some branches now close at 12pm Monday – Friday, not open Saturdays and Sundays.
NAB Yes, with some locations temporarily closed. Some branches now close at 4pm Monday – Thursday, and 5pm on Fridays. Branches are not open Saturdays and Sundays.

A Westpac spokesperson told RateCity that the bank had “closed a number of branches where we are seeing significantly less foot traffic, such as some of our CBD locations.”

“We are also taking a range of precautions at our sites to keep our people and customers safe in our branches, including physical safety barriers, distancing signage, hand sanitiser, alcoholic wipes and maximum occupancy limits,” the spokesperson said.

“In areas where masks are mandatory, such as metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, our employees wear masks at work, including in branches, as well as to commute to and from work.”

A Commonwealth Bank (CBA) contact advised RateCity that not only was the big four bank providing hand sanitiser for staff and customers in branches, but also installing plastic Perspex screens at teller windows, front counters, and in branch offices, to create safe barriers between staff and customers.

Masks are also available for all CBA branch staff across Australia, with face shields available for concierges.

Further, processes have been developed to help customers who are unable to come into branches perform their services remotely, on their behalf.

COVID-19 safe technology for branches

If you’re still visiting a branch and/or withdrawing cash, you may be wondering what practices or technologies may be in place to make your visit safer.

In general, banks are asking customers to avoid vising if:

  • You are experiencing flu-like symptoms;
  • You have travelled internationally within the past 14 days
  • You live with someone who has travelled internationally within the past 14 days;
  • You have travelled interstate within the past 14 days; or
  • You have come into contact or live with someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

The use of hand sanitiser upon entering branches is also heavily encouraged.

What COVID-19 safe technology is available:

  • Temperature checks

Some branches are implementing temperature checks for employees. These are typically done using thermal scanners. While thermal scanners cannot detect if an individual has COVID-19, it can detect if they have a fever, a common symptom of this illness.

A Westpac spokesperson told RateCity that “in some of our corporate sites and selected branches, temperature checks for employees are also in place.” This is good news for those looking to continue banking in person, as it lessens the risk of the customer contracting COVID-19.

  • Contactless ATM withdrawal

Banks like Westpac, St. George, ANZ and CommBank have had contactless ATM withdrawal available for some time now.

Depending on the bank, this may work by having your bank send you a unique code that is accessed through your mobile app for that ATM. You can then select how much cash you’d like to withdraw within the app.

You may also be able to use your digital wallet to access cash at an ATM, reducing some of the physical contact you may make. To do this you’d need to enable your digital wallet, tap your device at the ATM contactless symbol, enter your pin and access your cash.

  • Digital wallets

Speaking of digital wallets, not only can these handy mobile apps assist in withdrawing cash from ATMs, but also for contactless debit or credit card payments. Simply and securely store your credit card details via your mobile phone through Google Pay, Apple Pay or Samsung Pay, and then use your phone as you would a debit or credit card.

If you’re also making the move to more online-based shopping, they may be useful in this space. Your digital wallet will autofill your credit card details at checkout, offering you greater convenience and simplifying the way you shop.

Making the switch to online banking

Banks like Westpac have been encouraging their customers to make the switch to mobile banking throughout 2020. They’ve also created helpful video guides to make the transition easier for customers.

Using an online banking platform or mobile app is significantly easier and more convenient than visiting a branch. Furthermore, it reduces the burden on customer service members who have been spread thin across the branches still left open.

Most banks will offer assistance like the above to ease the switch to online or mobile banking. If you’re considering using this technology, or there are no more branches open near you, it may be worth reaching out to your bank’s customer service team for assistance in setting this up.

What other support is available from banks?

Australian banks have been understanding in these uncertain times, offering hardship relief and support for customers struggling to meet loan repayments and pay their credit card bills.

If COVID-19 has significantly impacted your finances and you’ve not yet reached out to your bank, or if you’re unaware what relief may be available, RateCity has created a COVID-19 bank support and lender relief guide. Simply locate your bank/lender, see what relief may be available and get in contact with them as soon as possible.

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Learn more about savings accounts

Can you set up a savings account online?

Yes. Several large and small banks offer online applications for savings accounts, and there are also online-only financial institutions to consider.

Online-only savings accounts are often less expensive than other savings accounts, though they may not offer the same flexibility, features, or face-to-face service as more traditional savings accounts.

Who has the highest interest rates for savings accounts?

As banks frequently change their rates, the most accurate way to know who currently has the highest interest rate is to use a savings account comparison tool.

Can you set up direct debits from a savings account?

It’s not usually possible to set up a direct debit from your savings account to cover ongoing expenses or bills, as savings accounts are structured around growing your wealth by earning interest on regular deposits, and discouraging withdrawals.

Some transaction accounts allow you to set up direct debits and also earn interest, though you may not enjoy as much flexibility as a dedicated transaction account, or get as high an interest rate as a dedicated savings account.

How do I open a savings account?

Opening a savings account is a relatively simple process. If you’ve found an account with a suitable interest rate, you’ll just need to get in contact with your chosen lender via a branch, phone call or hop online to begin the process. 

You may be required to provide:

  • Personal details, including identification (driver’s license, passport etc.)
  • Tax file number
  • Employment details

What is a savings account?

A savings account is a type of bank account in which you earn interest on the money you deposit. This makes it one of the easiest and safest investment tools.

How much money should I have in my savings account?

A good rule of thumb when working out a minimum balance for your savings account is to make sure that you’ll earn more in annual interest on your savings than what you’ll be charged in annual fees.

If you’re saving with a specific goal in mind, prepare a budget so the interest you earn on your deposits will help you efficiently reach this goal. Online financial calculators may be helpful here.

What is the interest rate on savings accounts?

As banks frequently change their rates, the most accurate way to look at interest rates on savings accounts is to use a savings accounts comparison tool. When you look at the savings rate check what the maximum and minimum rates are. Often banks will offer you a promotional rate for the first few months which is competitive, but then revert back to a base rate which can sometimes be less than inflation. Ongoing bonus rates are often a safer bet as they will keep rewarding you with the maximum rate, provided you meet their criteria

How to open a savings account for my child?

Some banks and financial institutions allow parents to open a bank account for their child as soon as it is born, and start depositing funds to go towards the child’s future.

Children’s savings accounts generally don’t have fees, and are structured to help develop positive financial habits by limiting withdrawals, encouraging regular deposits, and earning interest on the savings, similarly to standard savings accounts.

Can I overdraft my savings account?

A lot of savings accounts won’t let you overdraw. Some will allow this feature but you’ll need to apply first. It’s best to read the fine print and check with your lender whether this is a feature they offer. It can be a helpful addition, but as your lender can charge you a fee as well as interest for going into negative numbers, it’s best to avoid overdrafting when possible.

How does interest work on savings accounts?

The type of interest savings accounts accrues is called compound interest. Compound interest is interest paid on the initial deposit amount, as well as the accumulated interest on money you have. This is different from simple interest where interest is paid at the end of a specified term. Compound interest allows you to earn interest on interest at a higher frequency. 

Example: John deposits $10,000 into a savings account with an interest rate of 5 per cent that he leaves untouched for 10 years. At the end of the first year he will have $10,512 in savings. After ten years, he will have saved $16,470.

How to make money with a savings account?

Savings accounts make you money by earning interest on your savings. The more money you deposit, the longer you leave it in the account, and the higher the account’s interest rate, the more interest you’ll be paid by the bank or financial institution, and the more your wealth will grow.

To make sure your savings account makes money and doesn’t lose money, it’s important to maintain a large enough minimum balance that the annual interest earned exceeds any annual fees charged on the account.

Can you have a joint savings account?

Yes. Joint savings accounts can be useful for two or more people wanting to combine their savings to meet shared financial goals, including spouses, flatmates and business partners.

Some joint savings accounts require all parties to sign before they can access the money. While less convenient, this extra security can help encourage all parties to meet their shared financial goals.

Other joint savings accounts allow any of the account holders to access the money. These accounts can be convenient for financially responsible couples that trust one another implicitly. 

How can I get a $4000 loan approved?

While personal loans and medium amount loans don’t offer guaranteed approval, there are steps you can take to help increase the likelihood of your application being approved, including:

  • Fulfilling the eligibility criteria (providing ID, proof of residency, proof of income etc.)
  • Checking your credit history (you can order one free copy of your credit file per year, and make sure that there aren’t any errors that may be bringing down your credit score)
  • Comparing carefully before applying (making multiple loan applications can mean having your credit checked multiple times, which can look bad to some lenders and reduce your chances of being approved by them)

What is a good interest rate for a savings account?

A good rule of thumb to keep in mind with savings accounts is to look for a rate that is higher than the CPI inflation rate. This number is constantly changing, so check the Reserve Bank of Australia’s page. If you aren’t earning interest above this then the value of your money will go backwards over time.