If you're new to Australia, one of the first things you'll need to do (after visiting some of our must-see beaches and sights) is set up an everyday bank account. This is the Aussie version of a current account and is the bank account that you’d generally deposit your salary into and use to manage transactions like your household bills, grocery shopping and credit card payments.
In this guide we’ll run you through tips on where to look for an everyday bank account, the key features you should watch out for and how to get the best value out of your current account.
You’ll be able to set up a personal bank account with most financial institutions in Australia. And in most cases, you would be able to apply for your bank account online so you may not actually need to visit a branch at all (read more about the application process in the last section of this guide).
And for a quick introduction to the Australian banking world, there are the Big 4 Banks (NAB, ANZ, Westpac and Commonwealth Bank) as well as a range of challenger banks such as St. George, Bankwest, ING Direct and ME bank. In addition, Australia also has credit unions and mutual banks which you can also go to for your everyday banking, but some of these institutions might have membership restrictions. For a deeper look at all banks and their specific offers, check out Mozo’s detailed list of bank account providers.
Since a current account deals with your everyday finances and is the account that you will use the most often, it is particularly important that you pick a bank that will suit your needs. To help with this choice, each year Mozo’s research team crunches the data on Australia’s bank accounts to find out who’s offering the best value accounts with our Experts Choice Awards. What do we mean by best value? Well, according to our experts it means an account with no monthly fee, no EFTPOS transaction or Internet transfer fees, no ATM fees for in-network transactions, no minimum balance requirements and a fee free debit card.
If you like, Mozo also keeps data on all bank account providers so you can also use our search tool to compare all bank accounts in our database.
Here are some of the important features that you should pay attention to when choosing an everyday bank account:
An everyday or current bank account generally comes with an EFTPOS card (ATM card), which lets you access your money at ATMs, EFTPOS machines and for making purchases at stores. Some accounts also have a linked Debit Card, which are either linked to the Visa or MasterCard network. With these cards you can you tap-and-go for purchases under $100 wherever Visa and MasterCard are accepted and also use the card online or overseas. For a low-down on the best debit cards, check out Mozo’s debit card comparison table that lists all your options with their essential features.
Your account will enable you to access your bank’s ATM network for free. There are charges for using out of network ATMs in Australia so if you visit the ATM regularly find a bank that has a large ATM network or get an account that enables you to use any ATM fee free.
You’ll be able to use your ATM card overseas but you’ll pay a higher fee for this. Overseas ATM fees vary between $3 - $5 for overseas withdrawals. In addition to this fee you’ll pay a foreign exchange commission of approximately 2%- 3% of the transaction amount.
Generally, banks don’t pay any interest on everyday bank accounts and that’s why it’s a good idea to get a linked savings account (more about this in the section below).
All major banks will have Internet banking facilities which will enable you to access your funds, pay your bills, check your statements and transfer money to other accounts on the go. If you’re a digital savvy customer, many banks also have the latest banking technologies such as mobile apps, digital wallets and cardless withdrawals with your smart phone.
Most banks will have phone and internet banking so you’ll rarely need to visit a brand but if branch access is something you’ll need then check which accounts will have the lowest fees. Many banks in Australia will charge higher fees for over the counter transactions.
Thankfully, it’s not impossible to find an everyday bank account that charges no extra fee for storing your money. But often for no monthly account fee, banks impose certain conditions that you need to fulfil, for instance, you may need to deposit a certain amount of money in the account every month.
In addition to your current account, it’s a good idea to set up a linked savings account. Because your current account lets you withdraw your funds at any given time banks don’t offer tempting interest rates for keeping your money in an everyday bank account. A savings account will have a higher interest rate and it’s a good idea to keep the bulk of your funds in this and then transfer funds across to your bank account as needed.
Depending on your saving habits and goals, you can choose from a number of different kinds of savings accounts such as online saver accounts, bonus saver accounts and intro rate saver accounts. Looking for the best savings accounts? Check out Mozo’s savings accounts comparison table for a quick analysis of all your choices.
Now that you already know that keeping your money sitting in an everyday account isn’t going to help it grow, make sure you link the bank account to a high interest savings account with instant transfers.
Do you tend to withdraw money from your bank account frequently? If the answer is yes, then make sure you’ve signed up for an account that allows for unlimited transactions.
Out of network ATM fees can be as huge as $5. A good tip to avoid additional ATM charges, is to withdraw money for free at the checkout when you buy fruit and veggies at Coles, Woolworths or Aldi.
Setting up direct debit payment options for your utility bills is very convenient but you don’t want to be in a situation where you’ve used up most of your money all at once without even realising it. Set up reminders for direct debits expected every month: mark those credit card payments, electricity bills and gym memberships so you don’t end up with an overdraft fee.
Last but not the least, to get the best value out of any account it is very important to know where most of your money is going. To help you understand your financial position and plan for the future, use Mozo’s free budget calculator. All you need to do is enter some information about your income and expenses and the tool will use the data to give you a clearer idea on how much money you have and how much you’re overspending by.
Applying for an everyday transaction account in Australia is a very simple process. Here are a few quick steps that you can follow for making an everyday account application:
This is one of the most important steps of the entire procedure to make sure you’re off in the right direction. Start by comparing the best bank accounts and their features to decide which one suits your financial needs the best. Use Mozo’s free online bank accounts comparison table and shortlist the bank account you want to apply for.
Once you’ve decided which bank account you’re applying for, click on the ‘Go to site’ button to head over to the bank’s website. The bank’s website will then give you the option to apply for the bank account online.
Every bank will have certain eligibility criteria that you would need to fulfil when applying for a current account. For instance, generally, you would need to be an Australian resident for taxation purposes and be at least 18 years of age at the time of application. In case you don’t meet these conditions, you can still apply over the phone or in person at a local branch.
If you are eligible to apply online then you would simply need to submit your contact details like name, phone number, email address and an identification document like your birth certificate, driver’s licence or passport. The bank will then either open your account immediately and send you an account number, or in some cases it may take a few days. You will then typically receive a starter package in mail including your new debit card.