The Big Four offer a large range of savings and transaction accounts plus term deposits. Here's how to choose one that's right for you.
In Australia, ANZ, Westpac, CommBank and NAB are known as The Big Four. These banks hold the large majority of loans in Australia and many consumers choose to do some or all of their banking with one of them.
Banking with The Big Four gives you access to a large range of everyday bank accounts, savings accounts including high interest savings accounts and bonus savers, and term deposits. This guide will allow you to compare accounts offered by the Big Four, and will offer some tips for how to choose the right account for you. as well as nationwide access to ATMs. All offer online banking to help you manage your finances online.
The terms and conditions among The Big Four are similar and the common view is that their interest rates are not competitive for savings accounts. However, their transaction accounts do provide some helpful features including digital wallets, Cardless Cash and Card on Hold capabilities.
Compare bank accounts from the Big Four below
Understanding the details of term deposits is important when comparing accounts to help you reach a specific goal. The minimum deposit amount is typically $5,000, but if you are thinking about investing less, other Australian financial institutions may allow term deposits with a minimum of $1,000.
The Big Four’s market share
Commonwealth Bank currently has the largest market share out of The Big Four while ANZ currently has the smallest market share.
Banks are required to pay the regular 30% tax rate. A Tax Justice Network report released in September 2014 revealed that in the 10 years from 2004-13, The Big Four banks had an average effective tax rate of 27%.
Since The Big Four hold such a large market share, borrowers tend to think it's safer to apply for a home loan with one of them. They believe that they won’t have to worry about the bank defaulting on its obligations, which could cause them to potentially lose their home if they still have a mortgage.
Even if you feel more comfortable with keeping your savings with one of The Big Four, keep in mind that most banks in Australia are covered by the Government Guarantee, insuring your savings up to $250,000 per person, per institution should there be a financial crisis.
|Bank||Gross loans and acceptances 2015-2016 $AUD*|
|Westpac (including St George)||$1,878,662|
Who owns The Big Four banks in Australia?
HSBC, JPMorgan, National Nominees Ltd and Citicorp collectively own a minority share in each of The Big Four banks.
|Bank||Share in Big Four banks|
|HSBC||6.91% of Westpac; 16.83% of NAB; 18.48% of ANZ; 14.80% of CommBank|
|JPMorgan||12.75% of Westpac; 12.03% of NAB; 14.40% of ANZ; 11.57% of CommBank|
|National Nominees Limited||9.93% of Westpac; 10.14% of NAB; 11.76% of ANZ; 8.5% of CommBank|
|Citicorp||4.94% of Westpac; 4% of NAB; 4.15% of ANZ; 4.47% of CommBank|
*Source: Credit Card Compare
Which Big Four bank suits me best?
Availability of customer service
|Big Four Bank||Phone||Live Chat|
|NAB||Mon-Fri 8am - 7pm (AEST/AEDT)Sat-Sun 9am - 6pm (AEST/AEDT)||Yes|
|Westpac||8am - 8pm, 7 days a week from anywhere in Australia||Yes|
|ANZ||7am - 10pm your local time in Australia||Yes|
Comparing The Big Four
Choosing the right bank depends on your personal financial needs. The Big Four banks all offer a similar range of products and services but there are differences. To find the better bank for you, consider the accounts and services you wish to use, for example, a no annual fee credit card and a low-fee everyday transaction account, and then compare what each bank has to offer.
What are the features I should look for when comparing savings accounts from The Big Four?
When you are looking at savings accounts offered by The Big Four, make sure you take the following features into account:
Competitive interest rate
Interest rates will help determine how quickly your savings can grow. Look at the base variable rate of the account to determine which ones have the best value. With The Big Four, each one offers a savings account that pays bonus interest for meeting specific terms. Check this rate as well, and add it to the base to see how much interest you will really be earning.
Bonus rate conditions (if they are any)
The terms for earning the bonus rate should play a big role in the account you choose because if you don’t meet them, you will only earn the base rate for that month. For example, with Westpac, you need to make at least a $50 deposit and have no withdrawals to get the bonus rate, while CommBank requires that you grow your savings by at least $200 but allow one withdrawal. Since the base rates are typically very low, you will want to ensure that you are able to meet these terms before investing your savings.
24/7 online banking
The Big Four banks all have Internet and mobile access, so it comes down to who offers the best online or mobile banking experience. CommBank's NetBank has arguably been voted the best. Look into the apps as well to ensure that they are compatible with your mobile device if you like banking on the go.
What are the benefits of banking with The Big Four?
- More access to your money. By choosing one of The Big Four, you will have easy access to your savings through their large number of branches, ATM networks and online banking. Our research shows that The Big Four currently hold the biggest ATM networks in Australia.
- 24/7 customer service. Depending on The Big Four bank you choose, you're likely to have access to customer service 24/7 if you have a financial emergency.
- Easily link your Big Four bank account. If your everyday account is already with one of The Big Four, you'll find it easy to link to other savings accounts (assuming you can link to any Australian financial institution).
What are the risks of banking with one of The Big Four?
While your money may be secure with a savings account with The Big Four, you are not necessarily getting the most value. Take the following into account when choosing the right bank for your savings.
- Choosing a brand. The Big Four are all well-known brands in Australia, but you should still look at other banks when making your comparisons. This helps to ensure that your savings are working as hard as possible towards your financial future.
- You are probably receiving lower interest rates. The Big Four have a reputation for having the lowest interest rates in the market.
- Competitiveness. Due to their popularity, The Big Four banks are not always as competitive with their rates as smaller banks.
Which banks still issue deposit books?
Many banks, including Westpac and Bendigo Bank, still issue deposit books. However, they have largely been phased out in the age of Internet banking, so you may need to contact your bank directly to request a deposit book.
How do I stop unsolicited phone calls from the banks?
The easiest way to stop receiving telemarketing phone calls from banks or any other company is by joining the Do Not Call Register. This service, run by the government, adds your home and/or mobile phone number to a blacklist that prohibits companies from calling them unsolicited.
But wait, I have some more questions!
Where can I find consolidated information on the savings accounts offered by The Big Four?
finder.com.au provides up-to-date reviews of these accounts, highlighting the features and benefits to help make your comparisons easier.
If I have a transaction account with one bank, will I be able to link my savings account from another bank?
That depends on the institutions and their policies.
How do you know the difference between the base rate and the bonus rate?
You have to look closely at the fine print. Some banks will lump the two together when advertising, but the base rate will usually be listed as a low variable rate, with the bonus rate significantly higher.