Your bank account

Banks sometimes charge you fees for checking how much money is in your bank account and for withdrawing money from it. Here we explain how to find the right account for your needs and pay less in bank fees.

Find the right account for you

Here are the different kinds of bank accounts you can get and the features they offer.  

Man using an ATM to withdraw money from bank account

Everyday banking

If you need a bank account to receive your pay and to withdraw money for bills and food, you'll need a transaction account. Different transaction accounts charge you different fees for accessing your money.

Work out how you like to access your money and then find the account that offers the lowest fees. For example, if you like to withdraw small amounts of money from an ATM, you'll need an account that has very low or no ATM fees.

Some banks offer basic bank accounts that charge no fees for low income earners. Ask your bank if you think you might qualify, or have a look at the list of fee-free accounts on the Australian Bankers' Association's Affordable Banking website.

Online banking

Most bank accounts offer online banking where you can transfer money to other people or companies. Before you transfer any money you should double check the BSB number (which stands for Bank State Branch) and account numbers are correct. To check the BSB you can use the Australian Payment Clearing Association's Find a BSB tool.

Online banking can be an easy way to access your money but you need to be careful. To stay safe online, never use public computers for banking. For more tips see protect your identity.

Direct debits

A direct debit (or automatic payment) allows a company to automatically withdraw money from your account at set times to pay for things like your electricity or phone bill, or to make a loan repayment.

Direct debits can be a good way to manage your money, but they can become a problem if you don't have enough money in your account when the payment comes out. You may be charged a fee if this happens.

To avoid this happening set up the direct debit to come out of your account on the same day you are paid.

Before you set up a direct debit, make sure you trust the direct debit service provider as you are allowing them to take money from your account.

For more information see direct debits.

Video: How direct debits work

Video about direct debits.

This ACCC video explains how direct debits work and how they can become a problem if they leave your bank account short of money.

Savings accounts

If you are trying to save some money, you should open a savings account. These accounts earn high interest, which means that for each dollar you deposit into the account you will earn a little bit extra in interest. Some savings accounts also make it harder for you to access your money so you are less tempted to spend it.

For more information see savings accounts.

How to pay less bank fees

Banks charge you fees for using their services, but there are ways to reduce the amount of fees you pay.

Use a fee-free ATM

If you use an ATM to withdraw money from your bank account, be aware that you might be charged a fee for this - especially if you use an ATM that doesn't belong to your bank.

For more information see transaction accounts.

Take care with ATMs

Take care with ATMs poster

ASIC and the Territory Insurance Office (TIO) have an audio-poster advertising campaign in the Northern Territory about taking care when you use ATMs. 

Find out more about the audio poster campaign.

Some banks are offering fee-free ATM transactions for bank customers for a trial period in some remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.

This means you will not have to pay any fees to use ATM services like checking your balance checks and withdrawing cash, if you use one of the identified fee-free ATMs in these remote areas.

To get this service you will need to have an account with one of these banks: ANZ, BOQ, BankSA, Bank of Melbourne, Bankwest, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Citibank, Commonwealth Bank, HSBC, ING Direct, ME Bank, NAB, St. George, Suncorp and Westpac.

To find out if you have to pay ATM fees or not, look for this message on the ATM screen: 'This ATM offers fee-free ATM transactions for customers of some banks. If you're not sure, ask your bank whether this ATM is free for you.'

If the screen doesn't have this message on it, then you'll be charged normal ATM fees to use it, even if you have an account with one of the participating banks.

You should also consider using a fee-free ATM to avoid EFTPOS fees that are charged by shops in some remote communities when you take money out.

Check out the fact sheet, Don't lose money on ATM fees, for more information.

Get a low fee or no fee bank account

Some banks offer basic bank accounts that charge no fees if you meet eligibility criteria. For more information, visit the Australian Bankers' Association's Affordable Banking website.

Even if you don't qualify for these accounts there are other ways you can reduce bank fees. 

Video: Reduce banking fees

Tips form NAB video

Watch a video about how to reduce bank fees.

This video was made by National Australia Bank's Indigenous Money Mentor Program.

Here are some other things you can do to pay less in fees:

  • Shop around for a bank account that doesn't charge a monthly account keeping fee.
  • Always have enough money in your account before you make any payments.
  • Find an account that won't charge you to access your money the way you want to. For example, if you prefer to go into a branch rather than online banking, find out which banks near you will let you do this for free.

Case study: Stacey saves on bank fees

Stacey asked her bank how much it cost to withdraw money and check her account balance. She found out it cost her 50c every time she used her bank's ATM and $2 every time she used another bank's ATM. Stacey worked out that she was paying $10 in bank fees each week. She decided to make two withdrawals a week and check her account once a week using her bank's ATM. Stacey saved $9 each week in fees.

Check your statement

Check your bank statements to make sure your bank is charging you correctly. If you think you have been charged incorrectly, you can complain. See unauthorised and mistaken transactions for tips on what to look out for.

Keep your PIN safe

Keep your PIN safe by memorising it. Don't write it on your card or keep a note of it in your wallet or purse. Don't ever tell anyone your PIN for your bank account, not even your family or friends. If you do, they can take out money from your account without your permission and your bank might not be able to help you get it back.

If you think someone has stolen money from your account you should contact your bank straight away.

If you use book up in your community, see our book up webpage for information about how to use it safely.

For more information about bank accounts, see banking or listen to our audio segments on banks, loans and credit cards.

Related links

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this website may contain images and voices of deceased people.

Last updated: 22 Nov 2018