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

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 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.

Can you direct deposit to a savings account?

Yes. You can make one off payments or set up regular direct deposits into a savings account. This can be organised easily through online banking or by making deposits in a branch. Talk to your lender to find out the easiest way for you to set up direct deposits.

Should I open multiple savings accounts with UBank?

UBank offers customers an opportunity to make the most of their savings by opening multiple savings accounts. Having multiple savings accounts with UBank may be ideal for savers tracking different goals in separate accounts. 

It’s important to note that to earn bonus interest, you will still need to meet the conditions of the UBank savings account every month. If you don’t make these deposits, you will receive the standard interest rate, which is typically lower. 

Keep in mind that you won’t earn bonus interest on your UBank savings account in the month an account is opened and if you open multiple savings accounts with UBank, you'll start earning any bonus interest the following month. 

It's also not yet known how long the special interest rate will hang around for, so please check with your bank for more information. 

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 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

Do I have to claim interest on my savings account?

When you lodge your income tax returns, you must include in the documentation all your sources of income, including bank interest. Your bank will report any interest you earn on the funds in your savings account to the Australian Tax Office (ATO). When the ATO then compares this information with your tax returns,  you also need to have mentioned the interest earned. If there is any discrepancy, you’ll receive a letter from the ATO. 

Avoid this situation by ensuring you receive your bank statement with interest noted. Then declare the interest in your tax returns and pay the tax that’s applicable based on the income tax rate.

You only need to claim your share of the interest earned for joint accounts. If you manage an account for your child and receive or spend money via this account, you will also need to report any interest earned from said account.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Do banks run credit checks on savings accounts?

When you apply to open a new savings account, some providers may conduct a credit check, meaning that they will ask a credit bureau for your credit history. This isn’t always the case on savings accounts though and depends on the provider, as you aren’t borrowing money. 

As you are opening a savings account and not borrowing funds, this credit check is considered a soft inquiry and should not affect your credit score. If the bank has run the credit check, you can often still open a savings account even if you have a poor score, provided you meet other requirements.