With so many banks around, and so many more features, offers and conditions, it's easy to end up with the wrong transaction account - and pay for the privilege. Here are some of the key features you should consider before opening a bank account:
- Bank account interest. Most transaction accounts offer the grand interest rate of 0.01% on your monthly balance. Which means you're more likely to find savings in your armpit than in an Australian bank account.
- Online bank accounts. These days, very few banks don't include online access. But some accounts offer reduced fees or fee-free banking for online-only accounts. So if you want to know more about online banking features, check out our guide on online accounts.
- BPay is an easy payment facility using your transaction account, and should be available with all online bank accounts.
- Branch access transaction accounts. The modern world hasn't totally eliminated the need for bank branches. Some accounts have, however. So unless you're positively sure you'll never need to visit a bank in person, better check up on some access features. (Skip to our bank account comparison table - just hit Go! - and select the 'compare features' tab.)
- Bank@Post. Australia Post now provides various banking services for most major banks and financial institutions, so if you don't have branch access, Bank@Post could be your answer for depositing cheques, paying bills, etc.
- Checking accounts. There's nothing like signing your name with a flourish, ripping out a cheque, perhaps waving it a little in front of the payee before handing it over. You can forget the separate cheque account nowadays. Many bank accounts will offer chequebook facilities.
- Bank cards, cash cards, debit cards. Bank cards are your ATM/EFTPOS thingumijigs that should come standard with any transaction account. Cash cards are a snazzier way of saying 'bank card'. Debit cards are a different beast entirely - they function like credit cards, but spend your savings rather than racking up debt. In fact, you can use debit cards to spend your transaction account balance. Compare debit cards!
- ATM/EFTPOS & overseas ATMs. ATM access is standard although a range of fees (including no fees) applies. EFTPOS is near-universally available and is either free, limited or charged depending on the transaction account. Overseas ATM access is typically available for most bank cards, but the fees vary wildly.
Bank account tips:
- Keep your cash in a linked high interest savings account with instant transfers.
- Don't bother with cheques unless you're in regular need of them, or are happy to pay for the pose.
- Check up on your regular activity before signing up for a banking account with limited transactions, as these fees will add up. If you find a shedload of activity there, it's better to bite the bullet and take up unlimited transactions for a monthly fee.
- Check out the free transaction accounts - yes, they do exist - to see if they fit the bill.
- Keep a record of direct debits expected for each month: credit cards, utilities, etc. Set up an electronic reminder ahead of the debit.