The best banks in Australia are competing for your business
The best bank in Australia is one that works for you, offering the financial advice, services and tools that let you manage your money to the best of your abilities. The major banks all offer a similarly holistic range of products, and picking out all the ones you need from the same provider keeps these accounts easily accessible in one place, can net you a number of discounts and may help you earn additional rewards.
Australia's best banks are competing for your business, and you can take advantage of this by seeing what they have to offer.
What can you get from the best banks?
Westpac, Commonwealth Bank, ANZ and NAB are Australia's most major banks, but there is no conclusive way to say which one is the best. They're also competing with many smaller institutions, some of which offer special advantages to certain people.
- If you're past retirement age, the best bank for you might be one that specially offers fee-free savings accounts for pensioners and provides a range of related benefits for older account holders.
- If you're a student or a teenager there are also specialised zero monthly fee accounts available with certain banks, and finding the best bank now means you might be able to save up more money, more quickly.
- If you have a family, a mortgage and complicated finances, the best bank might be one that can save you thousands of dollars with an offset account, a special option for mortgage-holders that lets them reduce your mortgage payments without locking up crucial funds.
There are many banks and finding the best can take time. The best bank gives you the freedom to manage your money according to your own personal goals, and the products and services to let you do this.Back to top
How do I find the best bank for my situation?
There are several aspects one can look at when trying to find the best bank.
- Awards. Every year, banks in Australia compete for awards issued by different organisations. Some of the more popular ones are the Money Magazine and Australian Banking and Finance Awards, while specific sectors also compete for accolades including the Smart Investor Blue Ribbon Awards and Your Mortgage magazine awards. Award categories include best bank, best online account, best home loan and best CFO, and these can be a way to identify some of the top-performing options.
- Branch and ATM network. If you like banking in person, look for banks that operate in your local area. You might also want to check on their ATM network to see that the bank has plenty around Australia and you won't have to keep paying fees every time you need to use one. The best banks have extensive ATM networks, and may also let their customers use other banks' ATMs for free.
- Products and services. Before you select a bank, consider your future banking needs. If you think you may need a credit card or a home loan down the line, you may want to only look for banks that already offer these. Having a long-term relationship with a bank can get you discounts and advantages when applying for new products or services.
- Fee structure. If you’re primarily interested in keeping your fees to a minimum, the best bank might be a credit union. Credit unions don't need to charge fees for everything, largely because unlike the more prominent banks they don't have the costs of keeping shareholders happy. Many banks also provide low or zero fee accounts, but the requirements tend to be more specific while credit unions typically offer them more broadly.
Should I use a major bank or a smaller one?
It's all about finding the one that's best for you. You might consider these "big bank" pros and cons when making a decision.
- Many options. The best banks in Australia let you choose from different types of services and products, and tend to offer good variety. For example, if you want to open an everyday transaction account, you can choose from a range of different options to find the one that's most preferable, while a smaller bank might only have one or two different types of account.
- Australia wide presence. The largest banks have a strong presence all over Australia, while mid-sized institutions might be present in some states but not others and small banks and credit unions may have only a very limited number of branches. Depending on where you are and where you go, a smaller bank might not offer services everywhere you need them to.
- Fees and charges. Big banks typically aren’t particularly competitive of the fees and charges they impose on customers. This doesn't mean you can't find low or zero fee accounts with them, but smaller institutions may be more likely to have lower fees on a given product.
Do all banks offer online and phone banking platforms?
- You can expect these from all major banks and many smaller ones.
How can I open a bank account or apply for a credit card?
- Depending on the bank you choose, you can do this online, over the phone or by visiting a branch.
Can I open transaction accounts with multiple banks?
- Yes. There is no limit to the number of transaction accounts you can have, or the number of banks you can have accounts with, but fewer is often better. Having too many can make your finances more complex and difficult to manage, which can carry real costs.
What else should I consider when picking the best bank?
The products and services are the core of what a bank offers, but you may also want to consider how they offer them and their reputation. The major banks all offer comprehensive online banking services, but many smaller establishments have yet to catch up. If you know you'll be depending on online banking, you may want to be sure it's available.
To get a sense of their reputation and customer service record you might look through consumer ratings. These can give you an indication of how existing customers view their banking relationships, and may highlight deal breakers. Word of mouth can also work well, so if you know someone who banks with that institution ask them about their experiences.
Whether you're switching banks or looking for a new one might also be worth consideration. If you or your family has been banking one provider for some time and you've come to enjoy their personalised service, it's worth noting that you may not get the same experience elsewhere.
Ideally you will be able to access all your financial needs in one place, through the same bank. This can make it significantly easier and quicker to manage your finances, but can also mean you're eligible for substantial discounts, particularly if you also hold insurance through that bank. Car insurance premiums, home and contents cover and life insurance policies are important forms of cover, but you may not be able to get all of them at a small bank.
What's the first service to look for in a bank?
It depends what your top priority is. An effective place to start is often by looking at available transaction accounts and savings accounts, because these are often a core component of banking services, and you may be required to open one in order to use other products.