A bank account, also called a transaction account, is the main way people receive payments, withdraw cash and make payments.

Just about everyone, from children to adults to businesses, has a bank account with a financial institution, credit union or building society. 

Bank accounts are different from savings accounts in that they’re not designed to accumulate money. Instead, this is the account which you use for your everyday spending.

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Learn more about bank accounts

What is a bank account?

A bank account is an everyday account used to manage your finances. Everything from paying bills to depositing your income to withdrawing cash is managed through a bank account. Bank accounts allow you to make payments in a number of ways:

  • Online shopping
  • Electronic payments
  • Digital wallet (e.g. Google Wallet, Samsung Pay, Apple Pay)
  • ATMs
  • Direct debit
  • Bpay
  • Branch access
  • Cheques

 

What fees apply to bank accounts?

Fees can differ from one bank account to another, but the main ones you may incur are: 

  • Monthly account-keeping fees
  • ATM fees (for your bank's ATMs and potentially even more for using another bank's ATMs)
  • Phone banking fees
  • EFTPOS fees
  • Internet banking fees
  • Branch fees
  • Paper statement fees
  • Overdraft fees (if you withdraw more than what is available in your account)

Yes, this sounds like a lot of fees, but the good news is that most banks offer a basic bank account that has:

  • No account-keeping fees
  • Free monthly statements
  • No minimum deposit amounts

What are some tips to get the most out of a bank account?

Use a debit card over a credit card - Bank accounts usually come with debit cards, which can usually be used the same way as a credit card, both online and in-store. It’s generally a good idea to use your debit card instead of your credit card if you don’t want to be hit with interest on your purchase; when you use a debit card, you’re spending your own money rather than credit. 

Be stringent with security - Unfortunately, fraudsters are quite common. Once someone has your bank account details, they could use it to spend your money. It’s worthwhile changing your codes and passwords often and avoid using predictable passwords or PINs (like your name or date of birth). Always check your bank statements to make sure you’ve been charged correctly for things, and there aren’t any charges on there that weren’t authorised by you. If there is a suspicious transaction, always contact your financial institution immediately. 

Keep essential funds in your bank account - People sometimes keep large amounts of money in their bank account, which can be a mistake. It’s usually better to keep only required funds in your bank account and move larger amounts to a savings account, where they can earn interest. You generally don’t need to access large amounts day-to-day, so always budget and designate funds to where you think they best belong. 

Check out online and mobile platforms - Most banks, credit unions or building societies have apps or websites for mobile banking or internet banking. These platforms allow you to do things like view your balance, pay bills and transfer money on the go.

What are the pros and cons of having multiple bank accounts?

  • Different accounts for different purposes - If you like to be organised, then you may prefer having different accounts for different purposes. For example, you could have one bank account for day-to-day expenses (such as petrol and food), another account for rent or mortgage repayments and another account for your child’s pocket money. For some people, this level of organisation could be one way to budget effectively.
  • Access special features and bonuses - Often, a bank, credit union or building society will offer special rewards, bonuses or benefits for opening a bank account, for example a lower introductory fee or waived account-keeping fees. Opening up more than one bank account could increase these benefits. Banks also sometimes offer package deals. For example, the bank could offer you perks if you take out multiple banking products (including a bank account). It’s important to do your research on any financial product before signing up and make sure you’re signing up to one that best suits your situation, not the one with the most attractive perks.
  • Multiple bank accounts can just be plain confusing – If you’re not overly organised or lose track of things easily, then multiple bank accounts might not be for you. Constantly moving and sorting funds can be complicated and time-consuming. If you prefer more of a hands-off approach to your bank funds, then one bank account is probably the way to go.

  • You can be hit with multiple fees – Bank accounts often come with a mixed bag of fees, from account-keeping fees and overdraft fees to ATM fees. So, having multiple bank accounts could increase your risk of paying more fees. If you’re opening multiple accounts to take advantage of features and benefits, then be aware that banks sometimes charge fees. If you’re paying this fee across multiple accounts, the benefits may not be worth it in the end.

Which bank account is the best?

Bank accounts are offered by basically every bank, credit union and building society and they’re largely the same across the board.

There is no “best” bank account for everyone, always do your research to make sure you’re getting one that suits your individual needs.

 

Bank account companies

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Frequently asked questions

How long does it take to open a bank account?

Where to find your bank account number

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.

Depositing money into someone elses bank account

Can you open a bank account at 16?

Yes, you can open a bank account at 16, or even younger. If you’re 13 or under, you will probably need a parent to accompany you to a branch.

How to open a bank account in Australia

Overdrawing on your bank 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.

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.

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 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 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.

Bank Accounts Frequently Asked Questions

How to change the name on your bank account

How can I wire money to a bank account?

You can wire money to an Australian bank account either through your own bank or by using a money transfer company such as Western Union or MoneyGram. Either way, you’ll need the other person’s name, BSB number and account number. If you use a money transfer company, you might also need to provide the recipient’s address for large payments.

Can I set up a bank account online?

Most Australia-based lenders will allow you to set up a bank account online. Requirements vary from lender to lender, but 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 ID.

Can debt collectors take money from your bank account?

When to apply for a business bank account

How do you transfer money from PayPal to a bank account?

Transferring money from PayPal to an Australian bank account is simple. Just follow these three steps:

  • Go to your Wallet
  • Click ‘Transfer Money’
  • Follow the instructions

The money will take three to seven business days to reach your bank account.

Once you’ve made the transfer request, it can’t be withdrawn.

How long does it take to open a bank account?

The length of time it takes to open a bank account varies, depending on whether you want to open it online or in person.

Online

Most banks and credit unions have simple online applications that usually take no more than 10 minutes to fill out. It can be especially fast if you have your identification documents like your driver’s licence and passport handy. Sometimes you will instantly be approved and the bank account opened. However, depending on the financial institution, it may take a day or so to be processed and your account number issued. Your account information and ATM or debit card will then be mailed to you, which usually takes between five to 10 days.

In person

If you decide to go into a branch or office to open a bank account, it may take about half an hour. Make sure you bring your identification documents with you. Also book an appointment if you can, otherwise you might be forced to wait in line. Sometimes your ATM or debit card will be issued on the spot, otherwise you’ll need to wait for one to arrive by mail, which usually takes between five to 10 days.