There are many banks, credit unions, building societies and financial institutions in Australia to choose from, so take the time to do a little research before you open the one that's right for you.
Aussies are certainly spoilt for choice when choosing a bank or savings account. It's normal for the average Aussie to hold multiple savings and bank accounts, assuming that they don't charge a monthly fee. A bank account is designed for your everyday spending, whereas a savings account is designed to hold money so you earn interest.
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There are usually 5 steps involved in opening a bank account:
- Choose your bank account type
- Choose your banking institution
- Gather your required document type
- Apply online for your account
- Start depositing money
What happens when I've opened my bank account?
Your transaction account is where you'll generally receive payments from your employer and it's the account you'll withdraw cash from at ATMs or use to pay for purchases using EFTPOS. You should receive a linked debit card. This allows you to access your cash at ATMs or make payments using EFTPOS. You can also elect to link a cheque book to your account, if you prefer to pay your bills by cheque.
You also have the option of setting up direct debit agreements from your transaction account so you can avoid debit dishonour fees. These are periodical payments that get withdrawn from your account to pay your bills. Many telecommunications companies and insurance companies will allow you to make your payments this way.
The fees and charges applied to most transaction accounts will vary between different banks. Some also place limitations on the number of transactions you're able to make in each month before additional fees may apply.Back to top
What are the fees and charges involved?
The fees and charges applied to most transaction accounts will vary between different banks. Some also place limitations on the number of transactions you're able to make in each month before additional fees may apply.
If you shop around and compare your options, it is possible to find accounts that don't charge monthly fees, but these tend to restrict you to only a few transactions per month before excess usage fees apply. If you're likely to make lots of transactions throughout the month you may want to shop around for an account that charges a low monthly fee, but doesn't carry any limitations on how often you use it.
Savings accounts are often also called deposit accounts or even investment accounts. These are intended for you to put aside money in order to earn some interest on your cash. Depending on the bank you choose, you may also find these accounts named cash management accounts or deeming accounts.
You will receive a higher rate of interest on your cash in a savings account than you will in a transaction account. Keep in mind that if you earn interest on your cash you will need to provide your Tax File Number (TFN) to the bank.Back to top
How do I choose a bank?
As mentioned already, there are lots of financial institutions in Australia. The four major banks within the country are known as the Big Four. These are Westpac, Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), the National Australia Bank (NAB) and the Bank of Australia and New Zealand (ANZ). Each of these major banks offers extremely broad ATM services right around the country. Westpac and Commonwealth Bank will also allow foreign customers to open bank accounts before they arrive in Australia.
You will also find that plenty of smaller local banks will offer very similar services to the Big Four. There are a wide range of "online only" banks and credit unions that offer other incentives to bank with them as opposed to "The Big Four". These include the online banks Rabodirect and EasyStreet and other online banks such as UBank who are backed by NAB.Back to top
What documentation do I need for opening a bank account?
You will need to provide adequate identification to prove who you are when you open your bank account. You should find that your licence or passport is needed, along with your birth certificate. If you've changed your name after getting married, you may also need to provide a marriage certificate to verify this. Depending on the bank you choose, you may need to visit the branch in person to verify you are who you say you are.
Keep in mind that you'll need to provide a valid Australian residential address with your application. Some banks will also ask for a reference from a reputable person to further verify your identity.
The application for your bank account will also ask you for your TFN. This is because interest earned on the account is classified as an income.Back to top
What's the 100 point ID system?
Australians wanting to open a bank account as a new customer must adhere to what is known as the 100 point system. This simply means you must be able to put together sufficient documentation that adds up to 100 points to make you eligible to open your new account. The following documentation carries with it the appropriate points that you can add together to get to the required 100:
- Birth certificate, passport or citizenship certificate. Each of these carry with them 70 points but you can only use one.
- Drivers licence of any level, shooters licence, public service ID card, a Commonwealth or state government welfare or concession card, such as a pension card. Any one of which will give you 40 points as long as it has a photo ID or your signature on it.
- A home owner, or home buyer, land rate form. This will give you 35 points.
- Medicare card, credit card, store card, union membership card or library card. Any one of which is worth 25 points as long as it contains your name.
- Other documents such as your car registration, power or water bill, home rental receipts, or record of any financial institution you have been a member of for at least 12 months. Any one of which is worth 25 points.
It is also advisable to also give your banker your tax file number. If you don't, any interest your account earns will be taxed at the highest personal tax rate level of 45%.Back to top
How do I access my account after I've opened it?
Most Australian banks offer excellent secure online banking facilities. You can log into your account at any time to check your balances, check your transaction history, transfer money between accounts, or make electronic payments to other accounts, including paying bills by BPAY.
You can also access your account using telephone banking. This gives you safe access to your accounts and you can check on current balances or make transactions or even pay bills over the phone.
With usually five to seven working days after your account has been opened, you should receive a key card, or debit card in the mail.