Take a minute to think about the last 10 banking transactions you’ve carried out. Did any of them require you to visit a bank branch or did you complete them all online?
The rise of online and mobile banking has transformed the way Australians manage their money. In fact, our combined online and mobile banking transactions make up 73% of all interactions Australians have with their bank, allowing us to quickly and conveniently access our money whenever we want.
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However, before you can choose a savings or transaction account, it’s important to compare online and mobile banking platforms to find the best online bank account for your needs.
What is online banking?
Online banking refers to banking where you use your financial institution’s Internet banking platform or mobile banking app. It allows you to access your accounts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at a time and place convenient to you.
You can use your bank’s online banking services to perform these essential tasks:
Check your account balance
View statements and monitor your transaction history
Transfer funds to other accounts in Australia and around the world
Update your personal details
In most cases, online banking complements the other services offered by your bank, such as the ability to access your funds by visiting a branch or using an ATM. However, there are also special online savings accounts that you can only access over the Internet. There are even some banks that don’t have any physical branches and only operate online. You can find out more about online savings accounts and online-only banks farther down this page.
How to compare Internet banking platforms
If you’re comparing online bank accounts, one of the most crucial factors to consider is the strength of each provider’s Internet banking platform. Internet banking allows you to manage your savings, transaction, credit card or home loan account through a convenient online portal, so make sure you take the following features into account when assessing each financial institution’s Internet banking platform:
Ease of use. The first thing you need to consider is how easy and intuitive each Internet banking platform is to use. Can you perform all your everyday banking tasks quickly and with a minimum of fuss? Can you navigate menus and options easily or is the Internet banking experience confusing and complicated?
Available transactions. Next, check out a list of the transactions you can perform via the bank’s online platform. Does it allow you to do common everyday banking tasks such as paying bills, transferring funds and checking your balance?
Security features. It’s essential that your money and personal details are kept as secure as possible when banking online. See how each bank’s security measures compare to those of other financial institutions, and check on the processes each provider has in place for dealing with online fraud.
Online tools and resources. Internet banking platforms can also offer a range of extras above and beyond the nitty gritty of everyday banking. For example, some platforms will let you access a range of financial calculators, apply for other banking products and even access a range of educational guides to help you better manage your money.
Accessibility and compatibility. How easy is it to access the Internet banking platform? Is it compatible with your computer and chosen web browser?
Customer support. If you ever have a problem with the Internet banking platform, will you be able to quickly and easily access the assistance you need?
Mobile banking has now overtaken Internet banking as the most popular way for Australians to manage their money. It allows you to access your bank account via your smartphone or tablet, which means you can do your banking on the go at any time of day.
Some of the features to consider when comparing mobile banking apps include the following:
Ease of use. How quick and easy is each mobile banking app to use? Can you perform all your everyday transactions with a minimum of fuss or is the layout confusing and difficult?
Available transactions. Take a look at the transactions you can perform via the app. From paying bills and transferring money to checking your balance and finding your nearest ATM, mobile banking apps should make it as easy as possible to manage your finances.
Contactless payments. An increasing number of mobile banking apps allow you to use your phone to make contactless payments. Check to see whether your bank’s app supports this feature.
Compatibility. Before choosing a bank, make sure its mobile app is compatible with your smartphone and tablet. You should also check whether you are able to use all of the app’s features from your device.
Security features. What details are required to log in to the app? Is your data encrypted when you perform a transaction? Security is paramount when banking online, so make sure your bank offers sufficient protection and also has adequate policies for dealing with fraud.
You can manage some savings accounts entirely online. Logically known as online savings accounts, you manage these bank accounts via the Internet and get a higher rate of interest on your savings balance. They also charge minimal or zero fees, allowing you to reach your savings goals as quickly as possible, and provide 24/7 access to your funds.
There’s an extensive range of online bank accounts available from financial institutions all over Australia, so it’s important to weigh up your options before choosing an account. You’ll need to keep the following features in mind when comparing online savings accounts:
Interest rate. Online savings accounts tend to attract higher interest rates than ordinary savings accounts, but rates can still vary substantially from one bank to the next. Shop around to see where you can find the best interest rate.
Fees. Many online savings accounts do not have any account-keeping fees. However, some do so read the fine print to make sure you’re aware of any charges that may apply.
Online banking platforms. Use the advice above to help you assess the Internet and mobile banking platforms offered by each bank. This factor is especially important since you can only access your account online.
Minimum balance and deposit requirements. Check if there is a minimum deposit required to open an online savings account. You should also be aware of any ongoing deposit requirements that may apply or the need to maintain your balance above a certain level.
Interest rate terms and conditions. Some accounts pay bonus interest when you satisfy special terms and conditions, such as depositing a minimum amount each month. Make sure you’re aware of what you need to do to earn the maximum interest rate available as well as how much interest you will earn in the months that you don’t meet these requirements.
Linked account. Most online savings accounts require you to link a transaction account to your savings account. In some cases, this transaction account has to be with the same bank, so you’ll need to be sure that it has all the features you need to manage your everyday banking.
24/7 access. Most online savings accounts allow you to deposit and withdraw funds at any time. Make sure you can access your money whenever you need before choosing an account.
Neobank Xinja has launched its savings account, Xinja Stash, to the Australian market with a competitive bonus interest rate. Read more…
The rise of Internet and mobile banking has seen the emergence of a new type of financial institution: online-only banks. As the name suggests, these banks don’t operate any physical branches and offer their products and banking services completely online. Well-known online-only banks in Australia include ING, ME and Rabobank.
One of the main strengths of online-only banks is that they have less overhead than banks that operate branch networks, which in theory allows them to pass on savings to their customers, such as fewer fees on savings or transaction accounts.
Another benefit of an online bank is convenience. In our time-poor world, these providers offer a fast, hassle-free way to manage your money whenever and wherever you are.
The main downside of course is that you are unable to have any face-to-face contact with your bank. While this is not a problem for some people, it’s a huge drawback for those who like the peace of mind that comes with being able to do your banking in person.
You can find more details on the pros and cons of this approach in our guide to online-only banking. Picture: Shutterstock
Shirley Liu is Finder's global program manager. She was previously the publisher for banking and investments and has also written comparisons for energy, money transfers, Uber Eats and many other topics. Shirley has a Master of Commerce and a Bachelor of Media, Journalism and Communications from the University of New South Wales. She is passionate about helping people find the best deal for their needs.
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