Alternatives to Big Banks in Australia

If you're not happy with the Big Four, there are plenty of smaller banks to choose from.

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Banking with one of the Big Four has its advantages - many branches and ATMs, a wide product selection, well-designed apps and asset security, just to name a few. However, if you're fed up with your current bank and are looking for a smaller or independent provider there are plenty of options available to you.

The Alternatives

Smaller Banks

Offering similar products to the Big Four, there are plenty of smaller banks you can consider. As technology advances, many of these banks don't have branches or ATMs. They provide service and advice online or over the phone, and rely on other infrastructure for physical transactions.

Rates last updated October 16th, 2019
Name Product Purchase rate (p.a.) Interest Free Period Annual fee Balance transfer rate Product Description
ME frank Credit Card
11.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$0 p.a.
Save money with an ongoing $0 annual fee, the same low 11.99% p.a. interest rate on purchases and cash advances, and up to 55 days interest free.
ING Orange One
11.99% p.a.
Up to 45 days on purchases
$0 p.a.
Keep costs low with $0 annual fee and 100% foreign transaction fee rebates. Available when you hold or open an Orange Everyday account.
Heritage Bank Gold Low Rate Credit Card
11.30% p.a.
0 interest free days
$0 p.a.
Enjoy one competitive interest rate and $0 annual fee for the life of the card. Plus, access to exclusive Visa Entertainment offers.

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Credit Unions

Credit unions are one of the more popular options for people searching for an alternative to a big bank, with an estimated 25% of Australians being a member of a credit union. Credit unions are collectives where people put their money together in an effort to benefit every member within the union.

You're more likely to receive better customer service and be treated as an individual rather than just a number. In most cases, credit unions are non-profit, which means they're less likely to charge as many fees as banks.

The downside: Most credit unions charge a membership fee to cover their operating costs. And unfortunately, as most credit unions are regional, you may find it difficult to find somewhere to bank if you're travelling interstate.

Rates last updated October 16th, 2019
Name Product Purchase rate (p.a.) Interest Free Period Annual fee Balance transfer rate Product Description
CUA Platinum Credit Card
19.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($149 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 13 months
Collect 1 CUA Rich Life Rewards point per $1 spent, receive complimentary travel insurance, a $0 first year annual fee and a balance transfer offer.
CUA Low Rate Credit Card
11.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($49 p.a. thereafter)
0% p.a. for 13 months
Take advantage of a 0% p.a. balance transfer rate for 13 months, $0 first year annual fee, and a low variable 11.99% p.a. interest rate on purchases.
Community First Low Rate Credit Card
8.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$40 p.a.
Get up to 55 days interest-free on purchases, plus, a low annual fee.
Horizon Credit Union Visa Credit Card
4.99% for 5 months, reverts to 12.95% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$0 p.a.
Receive up to 55 days interest free on purchases, Visa payWave technology and the ability to use Apple Pay and Google Pay.
Northern Inland Credit Union Visa Classic Credit Card
8.99% for 6 months, reverts to 14.00% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$40 p.a.
Receive up to 55 days interest-free on purchases, Visa Entertainment rewards and the ability to pay use payWave.

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Building Societies

Building Societies are similar to credit unions, although they have a stronger focus on providing loans and mortgages, rather than general banking services.

In recent years, building societies have decreased in popularity, as many of the smaller ones were either bought out, amalgamated into other banks, or became banks in their own right, such as St.George.

Rates last updated October 16th, 2019
Name Product Purchase rate (p.a.) Interest Free Period Annual fee Balance transfer rate Product Description
The Mutual Visa Credit Card
12.49% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$49 p.a.
A low rate no frills credit card that offers no annual fee for members with a home loan with The Mutual.
Newcastle Permanent Value+ Credit Card
11.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$49 p.a.
Save money with up to 55 days interest-free on purchases, a $49 annual fee and a low 11.99% p.a. interest rate on purchases and balance transfers.
Australian Unity Low Rate Visa Credit Card
9.90% p.a.
Up to 45 days on purchases
$59 p.a.
Receive up to 45 days interest-free on purchases and the ability to pay using Visa payWave for transactions less than $100.

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Community Banks

Many of the big Australian banks reduced their banking services in some rural and outer suburban areas in the past ten years. This allowed smaller community banks to open a new business model that focused on local banking.

Perhaps the best known of these is Bendigo Bank, which began as a community bank in regional Victoria before it amalgamated with South Australia's Adelaide Bank. This has made the once-small community bank a large corporate bank that has retained some of its community banking feel with its customers.

Rates last updated October 16th, 2019
Name Product Purchase rate (p.a.) Interest Free Period Annual fee Balance transfer rate Product Description
Bendigo Bank Low Rate Mastercard
11.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$45 p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months with 2% balance transfer fee
Take advantage of 0% p.a. for 18 months on balance transfers, plus a low variable purchase interest rate of 11.99% p.a. on purchases.
Bendigo Bank Platinum Rewards Mastercard
19.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$89 p.a.
0% p.a. for 6 months
Earn 1.5 Bendigo Rewards points per $1 spent and receive complimentary insurance covers. Plus, 50,000 bonus Bendigo Rewards points.
Bendigo Bank Low Rate Platinum Mastercard
11.99% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$89 p.a.
0% p.a. for 6 months
Offers a low variable purchase interest rate of 11.99% p.a., complimentary insurance covers and 0% interest for 6 months on balance transfers
bcu Rewards credit card
12.80% p.a.
Up to 55 days on purchases
$89 p.a.
Enjoy a low ongoing purchase rate, get 0.66% cashback for every dollar spent, plus take advantage of up to 55 days interest-free on purchases.
Bank Australia Low Rate Visa Credit Card
9.39% p.a.
0 interest free days
$59 p.a.
Enjoy the same low 9.39% p.a. interest rate on purchases and cash advances, offers from Visa Entertainment and Google Pay or Apple Pay.

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The Benefits

There are many reasons why you might prefer an alternative to the big banks:

  • Customer Service. No matter how hard they work at it, promote it, and teach it, the fact is that big banks frequently fall short when it comes to service. Bigger often means busier, and overly busy workers tend to be less friendly, less courteous, less willing to go the extra mile.
  • Personalised Service. Remember the classic television show Cheers? The show's them song was "where everybody knows your name." There is a timeless appeal to being recognised and acknowledged by name. Think small-town. Smaller banks know their customers and treat them as friends.
  • Fees and hours. Smaller banks still want to meet your needs. Your chances of finding a bank that's open on Saturdays or charges a monthly fee of only a few dollars are dramatically increased when you deal with smaller, local banks. It's easy to feel trapped by all the corporate red tape that goes on in our world. Big banks are no exception; in fact, they're sometimes the worst culprits.

If you're fed up with the big banks, or simply ready for a different – more personal – banking experience, think small. There are alternatives to the big bank status quo.

Pictures: Shutterstock

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4 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    MalcolmNovember 10, 2017

    Is Bendigo Bank Govet guaranteed for deposits up to $ 250 K like the big 4 ?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JudithNovember 10, 2017Staff

      Hi Malcolm,

      Thanks for contacting finder, a comparison website and general information service. I hope all is well with you today.

      Yes, Bendigo Bank is included in the list of institutions wherein if it goes bankrupt, you are protected so long as your account balance doesn’t exceed $250,000.

      You may see this information on this page. Kindly scroll down until you’d see the full list of banks which have a covered guarantee or protection on account balances which don’t exceed $250,000.

      I hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Judith

  2. Default Gravatar
    GeorginaSeptember 12, 2017

    I need to negotiate a mortgage and would like the name of a good cooperative bank

    • Default Gravatar
      LiezlSeptember 12, 2017

      Hi Georgina,

      Thanks for reaching out. I’m afraid as a comparison service and general information company, we are not in a position to recommend specific bank your lender. You may however, use our comparison table on this page to compare our refinancing options. Better still you speak to a mortgage broker who can take into consideration your current situation and find a suitable loan or lender for you.

      Cheers,
      Liezl

Credit Cards Comparison

Rates last updated October 16th, 2019
Name Product Purchase rate (p.a.) Balance transfer rate Annual fee Product Description
HSBC Platinum Credit Card - Balance Transfer Offer
19.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 22 months
$129 p.a.
Enjoy a balance transfer offer, yearly annual fee refund, airport lounge passes and complimentary insurance covers.
Qantas Premier Platinum
19.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months
$199 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($299 p.a. thereafter)
Get up to 120,000 bonus Qantas Points (20,000/month) when you spend $1,500/month for the first 6 months. Plus, complimentary lounge passes.
Latitude Low Rate Mastercard
9.89% p.a.
$69 p.a.
Offers a competitively low interest rate and annual fee, plus up to 55 interest-free days on purchases.
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Bonus Points Offer
20.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months
$64 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter)
Earn up to 70,000 bonus Velocity Points when you meet the spend requirement. Plus, save with a 0% interest for 18 on balance transfers.

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* The credit card offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of credit cards finder.com.au has access to track details from and is not representative of all the products available in the market. Products are displayed in no particular order or ranking. The use of terms 'Best' and 'Top' are not product ratings and are subject to our disclaimer. You should consider seeking independent financial advice and consider your own personal financial circumstances when comparing cards.

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