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Bank account providers we compare at RateCity

What is a bank account?

A bank account or 'transaction account' is an account opened with a provider that allows you to deposit funds, withdraw cash and pay bills. Sometimes, these are referred to as ‘everyday accounts’, because they can be used to aid you in your everyday spending, from your morning coffee to your mortgage payment.

Bank accounts are offered by almost every financial provider in Australia, including traditional banks, credit unions, mutual banks, online providers and neobanks. 

Often, an Australian bank account will send you a debit card that can be used to withdraw cash at ATMs or pay for everyday expenses. Your debit card will generally be from one of the three main providers: Visa, Mastercard or American Express. 

While many people choose to have their salary paid automatically into their bank account, you can also deposit money manually if you choose.

What benefits and perks can a bank account offer?

When it comes to choosing the best bank account for your financial needs, there are a few factors to look at. Here are some enviable benefits to opening a bank account, including:

  • Safety. The biggest benefit to opening a bank or transaction account is that it provides you with a safe space to store your money for convenient use. It gives you a place to deposit new funds and also helps you easily pay for your purchases. 
  • Fee-free. Another key advantage to bank accounts is that they typically charge fewer fees than other financial products, such as home loans or even savings accounts. Most do not charge account-keeping fees, but you may still find some fees involved, like overdraft fees. A simple bank account comparison may help to limit the amount of fees you'll pay. 
  • Easy access to cash. Bank accounts afford you easy access to cash through ATMS. Just keep an eye out for any pesky ATM fees charged by some Aussie banks. 
  • Easy transfer of funds. Whether you're making a purchase via eftpos or sending money to a mate, bank accounts are one of the simplest, cost-free methods of transferring funds. Credit cards may sting the cardholder with interest rates and fees, and even savings accounts can limit the rate of high interest you earn if you withdraw from your rainy day fund.
  • Boosting savings. Most savings accounts are linked to a transaction account. If you're hoping to boost your rainy day fund, you may need to jump through some hoops with your linked transaction account to earn bonus interest or even an introductory rate. This could include depositing a certain amount from your bank account to the savings account each month. 
  • Tracking spending. Transaction accounts are also helpful in tracking your spending. Many bank accounts allow you to view all of your recent purchases, and receive paper or electronic statements, so it’s easy to see where your money has been going. If you’re someone who tends to spend as much or more than they earn, a bank account can help you see exactly what you’re buying to help you manage your funds more carefully.
  • Fintech. Many bank account providers also take advantage of new fin-tech, such as Round Up saver tools or spending trackers. You may also link your debit card to a digital wallet if your bank is compatible with this technology, including Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Google Pay.

Do bank accounts charge fees?

You’ll find that most transaction accounts have some associated fees. These may be as small as an ATM fee that only applies when using non-affiliated ATMs, but there are other fees you should look out for. Some transaction accounts may charge a monthly account fee, but these are relatively uncommon nowadays. If you’re looking for a low-fee account, it may be best to avoid accounts with monthly fees.

Some bank accounts will also charge overseas fees, such as foreign transaction fees and currency conversion fees. Some providers will waive these costs, so keep this in mind if you shop on overseas websites or travel frequently. 

Other fees may include branch withdrawal fees or cheque deposit fees. Before choosing a bank account, read the product disclosure statement (PDS) for a full breakdown of any potential fees to make sure it is suited to your lifestyle and financial situation.

What makes up the best bank accounts?

There are a fair few benefits and perks to be found in bank accounts, as well as fees and costs you may want to avoid. When it comes to choosing your best option, you'll need to carefully look at your finances to see what features matter most to you.

To help in this process, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What am I using this bank account for? If you're just looking for a safe place to deposit your income, you may not want to deep dive into account providers that offer all the bells and whistles, for example. But if you want a bank account that tracks and tags your transactions, sends you app reminders and alerts and offers innovative fintech, you may want to factor this into your search.
  2. What fees may I be charged? As mentioned above, there are a few fees that you may be charged for your bank account. If avoiding a particular fee, such as foreign transaction fees, is important to your financial needs, consider comparing transaction fee-free options.
  3. What features are important to me? Do you rely on contactless payments and your digital wallet most days? Do you love innovative fintech and working with online-based financial institutions? Or do you rely on face-to-face customer service and prefer to go into branches to do your banking? All of these features and behaviours matter when it comes to choosing the best bank account for you. 
  4. Is my childhood bank still the best option? It's a hard question to answer, but many Aussies get trapped in the loyalty cycle of sticking with the same bank they've been with since they were a kid for all their financial products. This is why comparing your options is invaluable in ensuring you're getting the best bank account for your financial needs.

Can you open a bank account online?

Nowadays, many of us prefer online banking to traditional brick and mortar branches. Many banks allow customers to apply for a bank account entirely online, including the big four banks: CommBank, Westpac, ANZ and NAB. 

There are also a range of bank accounts entirely based online or through apps called 'online banks' or neobanks.

How do you apply for a bank account?

Typically, you’ll be required to submit forms of ID as well as personal details. If you're applying online, be sure you have access to a document scanner or scanner app. You may also be asked to sign an application that is posted to you or which you’ve printed. 

After you’ve signed the document, it should be taken to a branch of your chosen bank. Online applications vary from bank to bank, so be sure to pay special attention to your bank’s instructions as you apply.

What should you look for when choosing a bank account?

While bank accounts usually function similarly, there are differences between bank accounts. Finding the best bank account for you is a matter of your lifestyle and spending habits.

One thing to consider when choosing a bank account is how convenient it is to withdraw money. Does this bank have ATMs near your home? Would it be convenient for you to seek out an ATM or bank branch for withdrawing cash?

Knowing how and where you can get cash out could help you find the best bank accounts for your daily life.

Another aspect to consider is online access. If you would rather deal with your finances online than inside a bank branch, then you might look for a transaction account that allows you online access. Many banks have mobile apps that allow you to view transactions, check your balance and transfer money to other accounts.

You should also be aware of any fees that your chosen transaction account charges. You may think that the best bank accounts have zero fees, but most transaction accounts have small fees attached. Some bank accounts charge a monthly fee for the convenience of having an account; others may charge a withdrawal fee or cheque deposit fee. Some accounts also charge for paper statements, so you can save a little money by opting for online statements only.

How to find the best bank accounts in Australia

One of the best ways to find the top bank accounts that suit your financial needs is to use comparison tables to easily compare your options. 

A comparison table, like the one on this page, allows you to filter down your options until you get a short list of bank accounts better suited to your budget, such as accounts without a minimum account balance or accounts that allow for Apple Pay.

You are also then able to sort your results via the maximum interest rate available if you’re interested in a bank account that offers this feature. Although savings accounts typically come with much higher interest rates.

To further help you to find the best bank account for your financial needs, RateCity has created Real Time Ratings™: a personalised ranking system that provides a star grade out of five based on features, perks and fees. 

Unlike other comparison site rating systems which may be calculated once or twice a year, Real Time Ratings™ results are calculated daily, so you’re getting the most up-to-date information possible. For example, if you’re tossing up between two similar bank accounts, consider looking at their Real Time Ratings™ scores to see which one will offer greater value for your finances.

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 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 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 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 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 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 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.

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 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 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.

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).

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 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 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.

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 delete your bank account from PayPal?

Deleting your bank account from PayPal is a simple three-step process:

  • Go to your Wallet
  • Choose the account you’d like to delete
  • Click ‘Remove bank account’

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.

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.